Chapter 9: Gong Hua… Abandoning the Flower, Abandoning the Leaves

On June 1, 2016, Posted by , In Gong Hua, tagged in ,, , With 6 Comments

Even your life isn’t enough to atone for all the sins you’ve committed. Tell me Gong Hua, what should I do?
Everyone’s heading towards death anyways, but would your death be enough to offset this hatred of mine?
Of course not! One measly life isn’t enough!
But you only have one life. After I kill you, it’ll be gone.
Even if I kill you, it won’t be enough. And after you’re dead, I won’t have anyone to take revenge on…
―Cas

“Are you really not the one who wants to kill the peace offerings to start another war?”

Zhan ∙ West ∙ Paladin stood in front of the window in his study. When he heard the question, he turned around and said angrily, “Chris! Am I not the one who fought beside you in the war all those years ago? I know better than anyone, better than you, how tragic and devastating that war was! When Chakou fell, I was the one who led the remaining soldiers to escape. The Danyas weren’t the only ones chasing us back then, Nightclaw and his pack were also following our trail. Can you even imagine the tragedies I’ve seen?”

Contrasting with West’s anger, Chris calmly said , “Those things happened twenty years ago. People often forget to learn from past lessons.”

“There are some lessons you can never forget your entire life,” West replied coldly.

Looking at West’s chilly expression, Chris didn’t want to quarrel with him anymore. “I apologize. I simply can’t think of anyone else who has the power to do something like this. Prince Edward isn’t an incompetent prince. I’m afraid only a few people are capable of preventing him from searching out the truth of this matter.

Upon hearing Chris’ apology, West calmed down. “You and I command two of the three spiritmancer regiments. There’s also that guy, the one who has never experienced the disasters of war.”

Chris paused and looked at West. He asked, “Do you mean the commander of the Qi Sheng Regiment, Andrew Xi Jiang? The Qi Sheng Regiment is mainly responsible for protecting the capital, Qifeng. Even if a war were to happen, Andrew Xi Jiang would never receive orders to lead his regiment onto the battlefield. He doesn’t have any battle achievements at all… Perhaps he wants to utilize the war to weaken the power of Xialan and the Racing Flames?”

“That’s probably not the case.” West frowned and continued, “His sons are all in the military. One of them, Anselo, is a spiritmancer you’ve personally praised before. If a war doesn’t happen, Anselo would never rise to the rank of Xi Jiang until his father dies. Not to mention, the process of obtaining a medal is strictly-regulated these days. Even if he’s a War Marshal, he would never earn a higher title if he doesn’t obtain any battle achievements.”

Doesn’t the same apply to Owen? Chris did not voice out the thought. It was for this reason that he suspected West of wanting to start a war. Without war, soldiers had no way of obtaining any achievements. Without achievements, rising to the military rank of Xi Jiang or obtaining a title higher than War Marshal was impossible.

Owen was in the same situation as Anselo: both could only wait until their fathers retired before they themselves could rise to the rank of Xi Jiang by becoming the new commanders of their respective regiments. However, even then, it’d still be impossible for them to be receive titles higher than War Marshal.

Although West treated his son harshly on the outside, Chris understood how he really felt on the inside. West didn’t love Owen any less than he loved Mila; he was only expressing his love in a different way.

West furrowed his brows and pondered the situation. “The Danyas are matchless in their swiftness and ferocity. Even though they don’t have any spiritmancers or spirit charmers, their inherently strong physiques more than make up for that deficit. Their only weakness is their food shortages. However, they live and subsist off of war. What they don’t have they can obtain by plundering. But that isn’t the biggest problem…”

“If another war starts between our two countries, would we be able to win again?” Chris murmured.

“We both know the answer to that question!” West continued a bit angrily, “No one knows better than us the real reason why the Danyas haven’t started another war these twenty years! If they hadn’t been scared out of their wits back then, why would those belligerent Danyas be willing to maintain peace for these twenty years!”

“The Danyas weren’t the only ones scared out of their wits,” Chris said simply. “I was also scared out of my wits.”

If someone else had heard Chris, they definitely would have thought he was telling a joke. How could there have been anything that could’ve scared the calm and collected Commander Chris out of his wits?

However, West knew the man was telling the truth. He said seriously, “If another war starts, scaring the Danyas out of their wits again would be impossible as we don’t have…”

West trailed off. He didn’t know what words he should use to describe…her.

“Gong Hua.” Chris finished the other’s sentence and added, “Even if you’re scared of her, don’t avoid her name. The Danyas were so afraid of her power that they haven’t invaded us for twenty years. They’re terrified of coming across her again…her power was that dreadful.”

“It’s fortunate that they don’t know we’ve lost Gong Hua,” West replied, but felt something was off. “Are you regretting the fact that you agreed to her execution?”

“No!” Chris immediately shook his head and refuted the claim. “I never approved of using her powers back then. It’s the same now. That sort of power shouldn’t be controlled by anyone.”

“If Owen hadn’t brought Gong Hua before me, the entire Racing Flames would’ve been annihilated. The Xialan Regiment wouldn’t have fared any better!” The Owen West mentioned obviously wasn’t his son, but an old friend who had already passed away.

Chris quieted when he heard West. He couldn’t deny that if it hadn’t been for Gong Hua, Zhan Yan might have fallen into Danya’s hands… No, it would be more accurate to say that the entire continent of Xi Zong would have suffered devastating losses. The way the Danyas had been fighting back then, it didn’t seem like they would have quietly returned home after defeating Zhan Yan.

Gong Hua had only slaughtered around ten thousand Danyas. For a continental war, that number wasn’t enough to turn the war in Zhan Yan’s favor. When the war had first started, the Racing Flames had lost sixty thousand soldiers. Compared to that, Gong Hua’s ten thousand wasn’t a large number at all. Despite that, the most important thing Gong Hua had done was plant the seed of fear in the Danyas’ hearts.

For soldiers to march forward fearlessly and slaughter their enemies, their enemies had to be at least entities they could defeat, not an evil spirit who was cleaning up the battlefield like she was merely weeding the yard.

Even if Chris hadn’t approved of using Gong Hua’s powers, he had stayed silent when West had sent her onto the battlefield. In a way, that had been tacit approval. If Gong Hua were to be sent onto the battlefield, then thousands, or even tens of thousands of soldiers could be saved from dying. In war, that number was a lure that a general of an army couldn’t ignore.

“I don’t want another war, Chris. The fact that I’m in the pro-war faction is only a front for the public,” West said quietly. “Even if Owen never obtains any battle achievements or receives any higher ranks or titles, at least that’s better than sending him to die on the battlefield. The Danyas aren’t easy opponents. Not to mention, Dashi and Yi Shuang lies to our west and north. Much of Dashi is covered with deserts, and Yi Shuang is permanently covered with snow. They covet the fertile Old Zhan Plains like an eagle eyeing a fat rabbit. Even if we manage to defeat the Danyas again, Dashi and Yi Shuang might decide to take advantage of the time we spend regrouping to invade.”

“Whether we want another war or not, the final decision lies in His Majesty the King’s hands,” Chris replied solemnly. “If the king doesn’t want a war, then I wouldn’t fight back even if my opponent held his sword up to my neck. However, if the king declares war, then as a solider, it’s my duty to become his sword and cut down his enemies!”

“Your stubborn views will attract you a horde of enemies!” West replied as he shook his head.

Chris smiled in response. “My duty is to become the king’s sword. As for whether it’s an appropriate time for war, that’s your duty to explain to the king.”

“Well, what an easy job you chose!” West said irritably. “If Andrew ever comes to challenge me, you better remember to mention that you’re supporting me.”

Chris smiled and said, “Why would that be a problem? Since when have I not supported you? If you really are pro-war, then I might hesitate a bit. But if you advocate for peace, then I won’t hesitate at all.”

West smiled back at the other, but couldn’t help letting out a light sigh. The two of them were commanders of military regiments, yet if they had a choice, they’d rather not fight a war at all.

“Truly, it seems like the Danyas weren’t the only ones who were scared out of their wits.”

***

Yin Qie Zi expressionlessly walked down the hallway of the royal palace. The people he passed by couldn’t resist glancing back at him, but the real reason why they kept doing so had nothing to do with him. Before going to the palace, he had put on the extravagant outfit Owen had gifted him. At the palace, however, his outfit wasn’t nearly extravagant enough, so that definitely wasn’t the reason why he was attracting so much attention.

People kept glancing at Yin Qie Zi because those strolling alongside him were of exceedingly high status: Prince Edward, the only son of Warlord Paladin, and two others who had clamored to join them―Gawain and Anselo.

All of the most important, powerful, and predetermined successors of the country were gathered around him! It would be odd if they didn’t attract any attention walking down the halls together. However, the one who drew the most eyes among them was still Yin Qie Zi, mainly because he wasn’t a successor of the country. It was like someone had stuck a bun made of coarse grains amidst a feast of delicacies, but the coarse bun turned out to be more eye-catching than any of the delicacies.

It was a frustrating matter.

Gawain made a point of frowning at Yin Qie Zi the whole way down the halls while carrying on a whispered conversation with Prince Edward. The onlookers didn’t even have to think to figure out whom he was whispering about.

Yin Qie Zi’s expression was as hostile as it could be. Gawain and Anselo frowned at his reaction, while Owen seemed surprised that Yin Qie Zi hadn’t decided to turn around and leave. The spirit binder was definitely getting better at restraining himself.

Besides Yin Qie Zi, Edward was also making an unpleasant face, albeit inwardly. He’d been thoroughly occupied with the matter of assassins these past few days, but now these four were nosing in, wanting a piece of the fun by saying that they were going to protect the Leaves. Although they were all strong fighters, their families’ influence was definitely stronger than their own personal strength. It’d be troublesome if something ended up happening to any one of them. So how could he actually send them to act as bodyguards for the Leaves?

Yin Qie Zi was probably the only person Edward could use out of the four. At least Yin Qie Zi wasn’t an heir to an influential family; moreover, he was the strongest out of all of them. If something were to happen to Yin Qie Zi, however, Mila would probably have his head in return.

Though the other three couldn’t be used as bodyguards, they could be used to scout out the movements of the powerful factions within the country. That was one reason why Edward hadn’t outwardly refused to let them come along. The best way to learn everyone’s intentions concerning the looming war was to use these loose-mouthed nobles who were in the know about everything.

Yin Qie Zi suddenly stopped and turned around to regard the others. He said coldly, “I want to go and pick out a Leaf alone. I won’t trouble you all with following me anymore.”

So he’s losing his temper after all? Owen nodded to himself. This was how Yin Qie Zi should be!

“You―” Gawain’s expression froze. He had meant to criticize Yin Qie Zi’s rudeness, but he swallowed his words after glancing at the prince standing beside him. He didn’t want to become a target for criticism himself by yelling at someone in front of the prince.

Edward wasn’t all that surprised at Yin Qie Zi’s reaction. Although he had never seen the spirit binder lose his temper, he’d heard Owen complaining about Yin Qie Zi for a whole year. Because of that, he had thought of Yin Qie Zi as an odd person who was both unreasonable and bad tempered. After meeting Yin Qie Zi, however, he felt that the spirit binder wasn’t as unreasonable as Owen had made him out to be.

“Are you selecting a male or a female?” Anselo suddenly spoke up.

Yin Qie Zi turned to frown at Anselo. He didn’t really understand this person who only had a thoroughly average appearance. Prince Edward could be described as elegant, Owen as handsome, and even Gawain as cultured, but no praise could be used for Anselo. He definitely wasn’t ugly, just average. His eyes were constantly narrowed, as if he were smiling, but expressions rarely graced his face.

“Don’t tell me you plan on picking a female?” Gawain smiled and said, “That might not be good.”

“What’s not good about it?” Yin Qie Zi replied coldly. “Isn’t it even better to pick out a female and make Mila jealous?”

Gawain’s smile froze on his face. He hadn’t expected Yin Qie Zi to reply so bluntly, blunt enough that he couldn’t pretend this whole exchange hadn’t happened.

Owen immediately tried to smooth things over. “Gawain, this is just Yin Qie Zi’s personality! He’s made me speechless with anger many times already. Don’t mind him!”

Somewhat astonished, Anselo looked at him and asked, “You still want him to marry your sister even though he makes you angry?”

“…” Owen and Gawain wordlessly turned to stare at Anselo. They suddenly realized that this fellow’s ability to read the atmosphere was even worse than Yin Qie Zi’s.

“All right, all right!” Edward immediately smiled to defuse the situation. “In any case, the Danyas’ desire to gift Yin Qie Zi with a Leaf has nothing to do with us. There’s no reason for us to go and create trouble. Let’s go to the drawing room and discuss how we’ll protect the Leaves! Those assassins have had me racking my brains day and night these past few days. Now that I have all of you here as bodyguards, I finally feel lighter.”

“Are you joking?” Anselo shook his head and asked, “How can you actually use us as bodyguards?”

“…”

Owen and Gawain stared blankly at Anselo. They weren’t especially close to the latter. At most, they’d come across each other during formal banquets, but they’d never known that Anselo was the kind of person who blurted out anything on his mind. He didn’t seem like someone from an aristocratic family at all.

Edward, however, wasn’t all that surprised. He had gotten to know Anselo from an early age, so he was used to the rash things the latter often said. “It isn’t as simple as being bodyguards. With you guys here, those assassins will have to think carefully about whether they can afford to clash with you over the peace offerings.”

Anselo thought over Edward’s words and nodded in agreement.

Edward turned to Owen and said, “Owen, why don’t you take Yin Qie Zi to meet the Danya emissary first? Remember to come find us in the drawing room afterwards.”

Owen shrugged and replied, “All right, I’ll go over soon. Try not to discuss too many secrets while I’m not there!”

“Don’t worry,” Edward said. “We’ll discuss plenty of secrets without you around.”

Owen aimed a glare at Edward before calling to Yin Qie Zi. The two of them then headed towards their original destination.

“Who is Anselo?” Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist asking.

“He’s the son of the commander of the Qi Sheng Spiritmancer Regiment. He doesn’t like flaunting and you rarely get to see him in public. However, he and Edward are friends of a sort. It isn’t strange for him to come to the palace and inquire about the current situation, though I really doubt he would be able to pry anything out of Edward. There’s a much bigger chance that Edward would learn something from him instead!”

Yin Qie Zi hadn’t expected Anselo to come from such an outstanding background. Anselo wasn’t dressed extravagantly; in fact, his outfit was much simpler than Yin Qie Zi’s own. He glanced at Owen and snapped, “Can’t you aristocrats at least dress like aristocrats? Even your personalities don’t seem like ones aristocrats should possess!”

“Haha!” Owen said while laughing, “We all come from military families. Soldiers don’t have to live under those long, rigid rules of the aristocracy. You’re the one who seems more like an aristocrat.”

“…I’m not an aristocrat!”

“True.” Owen looked around left and right and said quietly, “You’re a Flower. Does that mean you’re the king of the Leaves?”

Yin Qie Zi paused for a bit and replied sharply, “Where are you going with your misunderstanding? The Flower isn’t the king of the Leaves. The king is called the Leaf Lord.”

“Is that so?” Owen scratched his face and added, “But the Leaves should listen to your orders, right? You’re their guardian spirit. In the end, your position might be higher than your king’s!”

“…I don’t know if they’ll listen to me or not.” Yin Qie Zi frowned and said, “Flowers would never give orders to the Leaves.”

“Huh? Then does that mean Flowers would listen to the Leaves’ commands? Does that mean… Are you somewhat like a general? Would you follow the orders of the Leaf Lord to protect the tribe?”

“No!” Yin Qie Zi explained brusquely, “Don’t even try to use human systems to explain the Flower’s existence. The Flower isn’t human, nor is it Leaf. The Flower is a physical spirit! It’s similar to the Spirit of War you all believe in. Would your king command the Spirit of War? Would the Spirit of War command you?”

“The Spirit of War would never stand in front of me and speak to me. He doesn’t really exist,” Owen replied.

“That’s because you humans don’t really believe in His existence.”

“What?” Owen stared at him in shock.

“Jin Qi Er’s here. Be quiet.”

Owen turned to look. A tall and strong Danya was walking towards them. Who else could it be but Jin Qi Er?

The Danya walked right up to them and asked without any words of greeting, “I heard you’re joining the forces that will protect the Leaves?”

Yin Qie Zi didn’t know what Jin Qi Er was worried about and explained simply, “Don’t worry. No matter what happens, you’ll have your medicine in two weeks.”

Jin Qi Er frowned when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s reply, but he wasn’t in a position to say much more. He only emphasized somewhat roughly, “I hope you will uphold your promise.”

Yin Qie Zi nodded without hesitation. He really did plan on keeping his promise. Even if Jin Qi Er didn’t want to accept the medicine for some reason, he would still find a way to make the other take the medicine back with him to Danya.

“Then please follow me.” Jin Qi Er motioned with his hand.

“Yin Qie Zi, you can go with him. I have to go look for Edward and the others,” Owen said hurriedly.

Yin Qie Zi nodded in assent.

Owen turned around to leave but suddenly remembered something after a few steps. He immediately turned to yell, “Remember to let me see the Leaf after you choose one! Don’t run off by yourself!”

Yin Qie Zi replied with an eye-roll. He then added tetchily, “I have to go look for Prince Edward afterwards and see how he’s going to station the guards. How am I supposed to run off by myself?”

“That’s true!” Owen left, reassured by Yin Qie Zi’s reply.

Yin Qie Zi couldn’t help but shake his head. Owen was still concerned about which Leaf he was going to select. It seemed like Anselo wasn’t the only one unskilled at prying information out of other people. Owen probably delivered information free of charge to the prince all the time.

“Why are you here to protect the Leaves?” Jin Qi Er asked confusedly, before suggesting, “If possible, I can have one of my subordinates take your place.”

Yin Qie Zi shook his head and said, “You can’t do that. I’m being tested, for…” He hesitated, but continued, “For the hand of Warlord Paladin’s daughter.”

Jin Qi Er stared at him in surprise before understanding the reason behind Yin Qie Zi’s presence in the palace. He nodded, a faint smile appeared on his face. “So it’s for a woman. True, a man should fight for his woman by himself. Then I won’t probe anymore. I hope you will balance both of your tasks wisely.”

Is he still worried? Yin Qie Zi nodded his head impatiently.

Probably noticing that Yin Qie Zi was becoming impatient, Jin Qi Er ended the conversation and led Yin Qie Zi toward the prison where the Leaves were being held.

The prison wasn’t very far away; they arrived there merely after walking the stretch of the halls and making a turn.

Yin Qie Zi was surprised when he heard Jin Qi Er declare that they were there. This wasn’t the same prison as the one he had seen on the night he snuck into the palace. Their current location was a room right off to the left of the great hall. Although a dozen soldiers stood guard outside the room, it still didn’t make a great prison to keep people in.

“What’s wrong?”

Yin Qie Zi frowned and replied, “Nothing, I just expected them to be locked up in a prison.”

“They were kept in the prison before, but I had asked for a change of place,” Jin Qi Er explained. “There’s no reason to keep these Leaves locked up in a prison. They aren’t dangerous. Unless someone provoked them, they would never make the first move and attack. Moreover, the prison environment was horrible. It wouldn’t be good if they become sick.”

“I see.”

When they walked up to the door, Jin Qi Er greeted the guards stationed outside. A guard stepped up and opened the door for them. Besides an outer wooden door, an inner metal door also blocked the entrance. After both doors were opened for them, Jin Qi Er and Yin Qie Zi walked inside the room.

Once inside, Yin Qie Zi found his eyes drawn to the Leaves. Disregarding their lost expressions, Yin Qie Zi still found the Leaves less dazzling to the eyes than when they lived in the forests. Even so, he couldn’t avert his eyes from the Leaves.

The room they were in was especially spacious with ten beds placed inside. Some of the Leaves sat on the beds, others stood near the windows. The windows weren’t the normal ones with wooden frames and glass; instead, metal slats covered the openings. The Leaves were also bound by handcuffs and fetters around their wrists and ankles. The chains that linked their fetters together were short. Forget about running away, they had difficulty just moving around the room.

The Leaves didn’t react much to their arrival; some didn’t even bother to look at them.

Suddenly, a red-haired Leaf stood up and exclaimed, “It’s you!”

…Damn it!

Yin Qie Zi recognized her as well. He had completely forgotten that one of the Leaves had seen him that night.

What was he going to do now?

 

Next: Chapter 10: Revenge… Is It You? Or Me?
Previous: Chapter 8: Mila… The Promise of the Past and the Present
Return: Main Page

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Translator: Nannyn
Proofreaders: Xuan, Sherry

Chapter 8: Mila… The Promise of the Past and the Present

On March 2, 2016, Posted by , In Gong Hua, tagged in ,, , With 6 Comments

The only thing I want to do is kill you and take revenge for my family. I will kill you! Ki― No! Wait.
How can I kill you so simply?
You murdered so many people. You took away my parents. You took away my sister, her husband, and their child!
In the end, you killed my only remaining brother… Do you think your life would be enough for all of this?
How can it be enough to atone for all the crimes you’ve committed!
―Cas

“Nightclaw died?” Cas lifted an eyebrow, rather pleased at the news.

He hadn’t heard the results of the battle, but Yin Qie Zi was standing in front of him alive and well and telling him the story. He naturally concluded that Nightclaw had lost the battle and died.

Yin Qie Zi shook his head and said, “He didn’t die. Physical spirits won’t die that easily. He did suffer some heavy injuries. When I was about to kill him, he begged me to spare his life. He was even willing to use jewels and treasures to barter for his life. In the end, I picked out this sword and gave it to Owen.”

“You didn’t kill that goddamn animal? Simply for a sword?” Cas growled angrily.

Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise. He didn’t spare Nightclaw simply because of a sword. It was because the spirit beast had promised to leave with his pack and not chase after the army anymore. That was enough for him. It wasn’t like he had no other choice but to kill Nightclaw.

Yin Qie Zi hadn’t expected Cas to loathe Nightclaw this much. After thinking a bit, Yin Qie Zi decided that it was normal for Cas to have such strong feelings of hate for Nightclaw. After all, the spirit beast hadn’t done anything worth praising when they first came across him. If Nightclaw had never appeared that day, they might have led those happy and carefree lives for a bit longer…

Yin Qie Zi shook aside the weak thoughts and said, “The story is over. Isn’t it about time for you to explain why you’re here?”

Cas frowned and replied, “I would’ve forgotten if you hadn’t reminded me. Why did you bother dueling with that Gawain earlier today?”

“I only wanted to see whether my shoulder has healed or not.”

“Do you know what he’s saying behind your back?” With a semblance of a smile, Cas recited ferociously, “He’s only a commoner. How is he qualified to take the Warlord’s daughter as his wife? Does he think he’s become one of the aristocrat just because he’s wearing some fancy clothes?”

After repeating Gawain’s words, Cas looked over at Yin Qie Zi, waiting for the other’s reaction.

Yin Qie Zi found the whole situation rather laughable. He replied, “Did you think I would be upset over something small like this? I’m not an ignorant little girl anymore.”

“Humph! Of course I know that!” Despite saying so, Cas was still disappointed by Yin Qie Zi’s lack of reaction. He asked crossly, “Do you know who that Gawain is?”

“Isn’t he just Gawain?” Yin Qie Zi answered with that, but he knew Cas wasn’t referring to Gawain’s name, but his status. Gawain seemed to know Chris, he even called the latter uncle…

“He’s Chris’ nephew. Meaning he’s one of the candidates to succeed the position of commander of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment,” Cas explained simply.

Yin Qie Zi came to a realization after hearing that Gawain was “one of the candidates.” Feeling a rising wave of disgust, he asked spitefully, “Is that why he wants to marry Mila? Instead of ‘one of the candidates,’ he wants to become ‘the only candidate?’”

“Miss Mila’s fiancé was Prince Edward. Nobody dared to vie for the same girl with the prince. After you appeared, however, everybody gradually learned that the prince had no plans to marry Mila. If that wasn’t the case, why would he allow some other man to hang around her all day long?”

Cas then added cheerfully, “The Paladin Clan isn’t a small gold mine. After losing two sons, Warlord Paladin only has the twins left. It would be a profitable gain no matter which twin those greedy aristocrats get their hands on. You’re going to experience all sorts of trouble in the future!”

So Cas is excited to see how I’m going to suffer from this. Yin Qie Zi didn’t especially mind the troublesome news. In any case, his goal wasn’t to marry Mila. There wasn’t any need for him to think about something unrelated to his goal. It was enough for his plan if he could get closer to Mila in the next three months. It would be even better if Mila trusted him enough to leave Fenny aside. That would guarantee him success… in killing her!

Cas suddenly interrupted his thoughts and spoke, “That was a great expression just now. You looked as if you would go for the kill no matter who stood in front of you, even if it were the past Mila.”

Mila… Yin Qie Zi felt a sudden ache in his heart. He growled, “Don’t intentionally talk like that. You weren’t like this before.”

“Intentionally?” Cas broke into a flamboyant laugh. “I haven’t ‘intentionally’ said anything. The only Cas you know is the ten-year-old Cas from back then. He was a kid who needed to be taken care of by his brother. Do you think I’m still the same as I was back then?”

“You aren’t like this in front of the prince!”

Cas’ expression froze at the other’s retort. He said sardonically, “A dog has to act like a dog.”

Dog? Yin Qie Zi stared at him blankly for a moment before asking, “So you really are working for the prince?”

“The king.” Cas stretched lazily and said, “l’m lent out to the prince right now, to teach him how to use assassins. Though when he succeeds the throne, I really will become his dog.”

At that moment, someone knocked on the door. Yin Qie Zi jumped in fright at the sudden noise. Just when he was about to tell Cas to leave, a voice sounded outside the door: “Master, who are you talking to?”

It was Litelli. Yin Qie Zi felt his anger rising when he recognized the voice. He’d almost been frightened to death by his own servant!

“Master?” A curious expression appeared on Cas’ face. He then understood and asked confidently, “Is it the shorty from the Servile Spirits Tribe?”

“Yes.”

“He’s Lequilier, right?”

Yin Qie Zi glanced at Cas. He wasn’t too surprised that the other had found out about Litelli’s secret identity. The one who was most knowledgeable of his past was none other than Cas. It wasn’t unexpected for him to have guessed correctly.

Litelli continued knocking and yelling “Master” outside the door.

“Stop knocking! You can come in.”

Litelli stepped through the door and immediately froze. He’d never seen a stranger come looking for Yin Qie Zi before.

Cas sat on the bed and gave Litelli an once-over. Litelli, however, was covered from top to bottom by a cloak. Besides Litelli’s height, Cas couldn’t see any other distinguishing features. He taunted, “What’s the use of hiding under a cloak? You can’t hide your shortness from anyone.”

Only then did Litelli finally come out of the shock that Yin Qie Zi was meeting with a stranger. When he heard Cas call him short, he ripped off his cloak and puffed up his chest. He yelled, “I’m not short. I’m very tall!”

Cas took in Litelli’s appearance. The other was about 150 centimeters tall. Despite having a short and small stature, Litelli’s eyes were much bigger than average: they occupied at least a third of his face. Lifting an eyebrow, Cas stood up and walked over to Litelli. The top of Litelli’s head barely reached his chest. The other had to tilt his head back to be able to stare at him properly.

“In his tribe, Litelli is considered rather tall.” Yin Qie Zi’s lips quirked up in a smile. For once, he decided to help out Litelli and explain for him. “The average height for Servile Spirits is only around 130 centimeters. Most females barely reach 120 centimeters. It’s pretty rare to see Servile Spirits as tall as him. He could practically pass off as a short human.”

“Exactly as I was saying!” Litelli nodded in satisfaction. When he lifted his head, he suddenly noticed the scar on Cas’ left eye. He paused in surprise before letting out an earsplitting cry, “Y-you’re the one who’s here to take revenge… The one who injured Master last time!”

Yin Qie Zi immediately reminded quietly, “Litelli, lower your voice. Don’t go around scaring people in the middle of the night.”

“Master, w-why are you speaking alone with this dangerous fellow? What if he suddenly starts attacking you?”

Finally remembering that Cas was an enemy, Litelli took a step backwards and put himself in front of Yin Qie Zi, a cautious expression on his face as he prepared for battle.

Cas wanted to laugh when he saw a shorty like Litelli move into battle position. He then recalled that Litelli was actually the well-known Lequilier. Plus, Yin Qie Zi was also in the room. If they were to work together… Cas immediately pulled out his daggers.

Seeing this, Litelli reached inside the leather bag he had hanging around his waist. When he pulled his hands out, he had test tubes holding various liquids wedged between his fingers. The liquids came in all sorts of colors and seemed to be alive as they bubbled inside the test tubes struggling to get outside.

Watching those strange liquids dance inside the test tubes, Cas knew he couldn’t let Litelli come out of this skirmish alive. His hands tightened on the handles of his daggers, ready to cut the other’s neck at any moment.

Stop this!

Yin Qie Zi shouted, halting the other two in their tracks. He turned his head and growled at his servant, “Litelli, leave!”

Litelli started in fright. He cried, “How can I do that? If he attacks you―”

“Litelli! Put those medicines away!”

Seeing the severe expression on Yin Qie Zi’s face, Litelli didn’t dare disobey the order. Even if he was known as a rebel within his tribe, he still couldn’t disobey a serious command from a physical spirit. Litelli put away the test tubes, but still stood between Yin Qie Zi and Cas.

“Cas, put down your daggers!” Yin Qie Zi shouted, “Without an order from me, Litelli wouldn’t attack you.”

Cas put away his daggers without hesitating. It was best for him that things ended like this. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive if he were to fight both Yin Qie Zi and Litelli with his strange medicines at the same time.

“Yin Qie Zi… Are you okay?”

Yin Qie Zi froze in shock and turned to look at the door. The voice seemed to have been Owen’s. He immediately motioned at Cas to leave with his eyes. At the same time, he called out to Owen, “Nothing. My servant did something stupid. I was just scolding him.”

Hearing this, Litelli stared unhappily at Yin Qie Zi with his big eyes. Yin Qie Zi ignored him as usual. Litelli could only stomp the floor silently in frustration.

Cas took two steps towards Yin Qie Zi and said quietly, “I’m actually here to tell you that there’s no way to save the lives of those peace offerings. As for the one you’ll take away, it’ll probably survive.”

Yin Qie Zi stared at him with wide eyes. Cas merely smirked and leapt out the open window.

“Yin Qie Zi, why don’t we go eat breakfast? …Yin Qie Zi?”

Instead of answering, Yin Qie Zi looked at the window, ruminating over Cas’ words. His expression was ugly enough that Litelli didn’t dare say anything rash like before. Owen continued calling Yin Qie Zi’s name outside the door, his voice becoming more and more worried each time.

Cautiously, Litelli quietly reminded Yin Qie Zi, “Master, there’s someone calling for you outside the door. Is it all right for you not to answer?”

Yin Qie Zi slowly drew his eyes away from the window. He yelled in the direction of the door, “Stop yelling. I was only changing my clothes. Do you have to yell like that? I’ll be out in a moment.”

He heard Owen go “Oh” outside the door, as if he had a sudden epiphany.

Yin Qie Zi turned away from the door and started changing. While doing so, he ordered, “Litelli, I want you to go to the palace right now as Lequilier and offer to be one of the king’s advisors!”

Litelli started in fright at the other’s command. Was Yin Qie Zi going to abandon him? He said quickly, “But I’ve already decided to serve you! You also agreed to let me serve you―”

Yin Qie Zi cut in and added, “This is a task I want you to do. I want you to go to the palace and learn whether or not Zhan Yan is leaning towards starting a war with Danya. I want to know which side is going to make the first move. Also… I want you to do all you can to protect those Leaves.”

Upon learning that it was an important task and that his goal was to protect the Leaves, Litelli immediately forgot his habit of adding unnecessary embellishments to his speech and responded, “No problem! Master, I’ll go prepare right now!”

Yin Qie Zi turned towards the window. Seeing that Cas was indeed gone, he went and opened the door. As expected, Owen was the one standing outside.

“What happened?”

Yin Qie Zi explained simply, “I was ordering my servant to go find some rare medical ingredients, but we had conflicting ideas.”

Unexpectedly, Owen didn’t probe any deeper into the matter. Instead he said quietly to Yin Qie Zi, “Father wants to see you after breakfast.”

Yin Qie Zi paused in his steps, both surprised and alarmed. “Wes… Warlord Paladin wants to see me? What for?”

“Promise me you won’t be angry when you hear…”

Yin Qie Zi directed a glare at Owen, the latter braced himself for disaster and explained, “Father seems to have something he wants you to do. It’s probably nothing more than wanting to test your skills. After all, Father treasures my sister deeply. He wouldn’t let her marry you that easily.”

“You make it out as if I’ve already decided to take your sister as my wife,” Yin Qie Zi replied bad-temperedly.

Owen tensed at the other’s answer. He asked, “Don’t tell me you don’t want to marry her?”

Yin Qie Zi was silent for a moment, not knowing how to reply. After thinking, he managed to force out an answer, “I haven’t thought about that yet. After all, I haven’t known her for long…”

Owen sighed in relief and said, “That’s true.” He then trailed off in thought. Considering Yin Qie Zi’s personality, he must be somewhat interested in Mila as he didn’t out-rightly refuse the marriage.

Owen’s mood lightened at that thought. It didn’t matter what kind of tests his father came up with, he and Mila would help Yin Qie Zi pass them. If they really had no other option, they could get Edward to help. There wasn’t anything they couldn’t solve together. However, Yin Qie Zi’s own desires were the most important. If he really didn’t like Mila, then this marriage would be hard to pull off.

“Hahaha. My brother-in-law, which day―”

Yin Qie Zi glared at him ferociously.

“…I was just saying that Mila has been waiting for a long time. Let’s quickly go eat breakfast.”

After quietly changing what he was going to say, Owen found he probably wouldn’t be happy that he was going to have a brother-in-law like Yin Qie Zi. He was already being bullied by his own sister. Now he was going to have to deal with a brother-in-law as well.

He could look past it if it were Mila doing the bullying. After all, she was his adorable little sister! But if he was going to be bullied by his brother-in-law as well, that’d really be… Is there no god in this world?

***

Owen knocked on the door to the study. No matter the time or the situation, he was always a bit nervous to face his father. He wasn’t like Mila who treated their father as someone to act spoiled with. Unlike him, Mila wasn’t the slightest bit afraid of their father.

Owen didn’t dare act like that around their father. He didn’t dare let any hint of weakness show in his expression, not to mention acting spoiled. If his father were to see it, he’d receive an immediate scolding and even physical punishment.

Yin Qie Zi glanced sideways at Owen. “What are you doing being more nervous than me?”

Owen forced a smile at Yin Qie Zi’s remark. Quickly afterwards, they heard a “come in” from inside the study. Owen replied straightaway, “Yes!”

Yin Qie Zi was unused to seeing Owen’s serious and proper expression. Mila had already told him that Owen lived under strict rules when it came to his father, so Yin Qie Zi wasn’t especially surprised at the other’s sudden change.

Owen opened the study’s door with an apprehensive face. Seeing that his father wasn’t alone in the room and that Chris was also inside, Owen stretched taut with even more tension. His expression became severe and his back ramrod straight, appearing like a model soldier.

On the other hand, Yin Qie Zi’s expression was slightly unfriendly. He had to force himself to forget that West was the one sitting in front of him before he could put up an unperturbed front. Despite all his efforts, he barely managed to remain expressionless. Anyone who looked at him closely could tell he was being slightly hostile.

After walking in, Owen greeted the two men inside seriously. “Teacher, Father.”

Chris nodded back at him, but West completely ignored his own son. West looked directly at Yin Qie Zi and asked, “I heard you’re quite good at martial arts?”

Yin Qie Zi initially wanted to give a friendly reply, but ultimately found he couldn’t accomplish such a thing. If not for the fact that West’s grey-haired appearance was radically different from how he looked twenty years ago, Yin Qie Zi felt he wouldn’t be able to resist pulling out his sword and attacking the other right then and there. In the end, he only replied blandly, “I’m about average.”

West frowned at Yin Qie Zi’s reply. His daughter had already told him that Yin Qie Zi had an indifferent personality and asked him to be tolerant of his behavior. But when did anyone dare act this indifferently towards a powerful Warlord like him? He couldn’t help feel displeased at Yin Qie Zi’s attitude.

Unexpectedly, Chris said, “You don’t need to be modest. Although I was unprepared for your last strike yesterday, I feel I still would’ve lost to you if we truly fought to the end. Going by your age, calling you a genius wouldn’t even be enough!”

Owen almost jumped in surprise when he heard Chris’ reply. He knew Yin Qie Zi wasn’t weak, but he never expected him to be strong enough that even his teacher wouldn’t be able to defeat him. He then suddenly remembered that Yin Qie Zi was older than he looked. He was at least an “old man” over fifty years old. He might even be older than Chris. It wasn’t strange for him to be that strong.

After hearing Chris’ praise, West’s mood lightened greatly. He was initially opposed when he learnt that his daughter had chosen a weak-bodied spirit binder as a potential husband. He was helpless against the choice as Mila had asked for the right to select her own husband for her birthday present. West agreed to it, but didn’t expect the spirit binder his daughter selected to be this arrogant and obstinate. However, if Yin Qie Zi was someone who could fight hand to hand with Chris, then it was understandable for him to be arrogant.

“I have a task I want you to do.”

“May I ask what it is?” Yin Qie Zi made an effort to be humble. His words were definitely more humble than before, but he couldn’t change his tone of voice.

“I want you to protect the peace offerings Zhan Yan will be presenting to the Danyas.”

Yin Qie Zi paused in shock. Cas had just told him that someone was after the lives of those Leaves. Now West was sending him to protect them. This kind of lucky coincidence made him slightly suspicious. He asked in mistrust, “You’re really entrusting such a large task to me?”

Chris spoke up, “We haven’t entrusted the job only to you. We merely want you to act as a guard for them. There have been many assassination attempts on the lives of those peace offerings. The prince is currently having difficulties thinking of how he’s going ensure their safety.”

Yin Qie Zi was again reminded of Cas’ warning when he heard “many assassination attempts.” His heart thudded rapidly inside his chest, almost as if it were going to jump out at any moment.

“Father, Teacher, Yin Qie Zi has already agreed to make a few spirit medicines for the Danya emissaries. He can’t guard those peace offerings for these two weeks,” Owen explained hurriedly.

If Owen hadn’t reminded him, Yin Qie Zi would’ve completely forgotten about his promise to Jin Qi Er. Despite that, it didn’t pose much of a problem for him. If he didn’t have time to make the spirit medicines, he could just leave them for Litelli to do. But this was difficult to say out loud, after all, Litelli was merely his servant in name.

West snorted at his son’s reply and said sternly, “It’s because the emissaries are waiting on your spirit medicines that they’ve decided to stay for another two weeks. If not you, who else am I going to entrust this guarding task to?”

Hearing his father’s harsh tone, Owen didn’t dare add anything else. He only turned his head and leveled a questioning gaze at Yin Qie Zi.

In order to avoid rousing West’s suspicions, Yin Qie Zi said, “I will need my servant to come with me to the palace. I will also need a room to allow me to prepare the medicines. It would be best if the room is near the prison the Leaves are locked up in. I will do my best to protect the Leaves and make the medicines at the same time.”

Seeing Yin Qie Zi’s proactive attitude, West finally felt that the young man wasn’t a bad match for his daughter. Yin Qie Zi was capable of making high-quality spirit medicines and was also a strong spiritmancer. He at least made a barely suitable match for Mila.

“Very well. You may leave for the palace after you make preparations.” West then turned and directed an order at his son, “Owen, you will be the one to arrange the rooms he will stay in.”

“Yes!” Owen replied quickly. He then added with a slight tremble, “Father, may I also participate in this mission? I feel I could be of some help.”

West thought for a moment and responded, “It would be good for you to have some experience. Don’t be a hindrance, understand?”

Owen immediately replied in agreement.

West waved his hand and said, “All right, you may leave now. I still have things to discuss with Commander Chris.”

Chris turned and spoke to Yin Qie Zi, “Since you have a job to do, it won’t be easy to seek battle advice from you anymore. If there is an opportunity in the future, we definitely have to compare notes!”

Yin Qie Zi nodded indifferently and left the study with Owen. Before the door closed, the two of them caught a snatch of the older men’s murmurings inside the room:

“Exactly what is going on? Who’s trying to assassinate the peace offerings?”

“I thought it was you…”

Owen perked his ears up as far as they could go and eavesdropped on the conversation. The door was shutting at a snail-pace rate, but in the end, it closed before they could hear anything else. Owen turned and whispered to Yin Qie Zi, “The one who said ‘I thought it was you,’ wasn’t it Teacher Chris? D-does that mean my father wanted to kill the Leaves?”

Yin Qie Zi was pondering over the same question. He replied uncertainly, “He probably just suspects it was your father, but he doesn’t seem very sure of it. Plus, your father already denied it with his earlier question.”

“Then should he have admitted that he was the one who did it?” Owen added unhappily, “Unless Teacher Chris is an accomplice, my father would never admit to it.”

That was true. Yin Qie Zi nodded and asked, “Do you think your father was the one who ordered the assassination of the Leaves?”

Owen scratched his face and replied, “I don’t know. Even if he were the one behind it, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Considering that he told the two of us to go protect the Leaves just now, it probably wasn’t him. Or could that just be a diversion tactic?”

Yin Qie Zi didn’t know how to continue after hearing Owen. He replied snappily, “How should I know if you don’t even understand your father’s way of thinking?”

“True. Let’s just stop guessing. You should start packing. I’ll go to the palace first and ask Edward about the situation. I’ll also arrange a room for you while I’m there.”

“You don’t need to pack?”

“Yehv returned. He’ll help me pack,” Owen said. Then as if he’d just remembered something, he added, “What do you think about sharing the same room? It’s easier to discuss things that way.”

“No! I don’t like living in the same room with another person. Plus, I need to use the room to make spirit medicines. I won’t have room for you to sleep,” Yin Qie Zi immediately replied in a chilly voice.

Owen scratched his nose at the other’s response and nodded helplessly. “All right. It’ll be fine if l live in the room next to yours, right?”

Yin Qie Zi nodded in agreement.

“If Mila knows you’ll be living at the palace from now on, she’ll surely be unhappy.”

Thinking of Mila, Yin Qie Zi blurted out, “She can come over to the palace to look for m―us.”

Owen rolled his eyes and said, “If Father ever catches wind that you’re acting lovey-dovey with Mila while on a mission, he’ll probably just pull you off the mission. Even worse, he might decide that you aren’t worthy of her. Whatever the case, Mila can’t come over to the palace frequently!”

“Is that so?” After knowing that he wouldn’t be able to see Mila’s smile or her sunflower-colored hair for a while, Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt a weight on his chest.

“Are you disappointed?” Owen said with a grin, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder! If you do well in the mission, then my father won’t have any other objections to you becoming my brother-in-law!”

“Who’s your brother-in-law!”

“Of course that depends on who’s marrying my sister!”

Owen regretted his remark the minute it left his mouth. If Yin Qie Zi denied the marriage, then things would turn out bad. What was he doing forcing the other into this sort of corner?

Unexpectedly, Yin Qie Zi didn’t say anything to deny Owen’s remark. Yin Qie Zi’s expression froze, but he remained silent. He then turned around and left abruptly.

“Wow…” Owen widened his eyes and stared after Yin Qie Zi. He said admiringly, “My sister is amazing! She managed to nab a difficult fellow like Yin Qie Zi in just a month! He’s going to end up as my brother-in-law any day now… Ah. That means my days of being bullied by both my sister and brother-in-law is just around the corner. Ahhh―

***

Yin Qie Zi pondered deeply on the situation on the way back to his room. When he opened the door he saw Litelli rummaging through the chests and drawers. Yin Qie Zi was surprised at the sight, but it seemed like Litelli was looking for something. After Litelli found it, he’d know what the other was looking for. He wouldn’t get an answer even if he asked Litelli right now; the latter’s favorite pastime was keeping others in suspense.

Yin Qie Zi sat down on the bed and continued wondering whether his new mission would be beneficial or detrimental to his revenge. Even after thinking, he couldn’t obtain an answer. What he did remember was that he should call off the order he had given to Litelli.

“Litelli, you don’t need to have an audience with the king as Lequilier anymore. You can come with me. We’ll be moving into the palace.”

Litelli almost coughed out blood at Yin Qie Zi’s words. He turned around and yelled, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I was going though great trouble looking for all that stuff!”

“Looking for what?” Yin Qie Zi looked at him confusedly.

“Clothes, weapons, and the high-quality medicines I’ve made before!” Litelli yelled desperately, “How can I go in unprepared if I’m to make the king believe that I’m Lequilier? I spent that much time looking for everything, but then you tell me that I don’t need any of it and can just accompany you… For what did I spend all that time looking for that stuff then? It’s a complete waste of effort! A complete waste of time! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Yin Qie Zi’s eardrums rattled with the force of Litelli’s voice. He couldn’t resist growling, “Stop yelling!”

Litelli closed his mouth, but a look of exasperation was still on his face. His stared at Yin Qie Zi with bulging eyes that appeared as big as fists.

“Don’t stare at me like that. Warlord Paladin gave me a mission. I’m to go to the palace and protect the Leaves. So go and pack up all our luggage, or would you rather stay here and keep an eye on Mila?”

“Okay!” Litelli unhappily started cleaning up the mess in the room. While doing so, he grumbled, “Why did you have to make everything so difficult? We’ve already infiltrated the warlord’s estate. Between the two of us, it wouldn’t be too hard to kill the warlord. Why do we also have to kill his children? Moreover, you aren’t even satisfied with one of them. No, we have to kill both of them. Now we got saddled with a mission from the enemy. What kind of a mess is this!”

Catching wind of Litelli’s grumbling, Yin Qie Zi felt his thoughts tumbling around inside him. After leaving behind a “Call me when you’re finished,” he stepped outside the room. He didn’t expect to see Mila just outside his door. She was accompanied by Fenny like usual, but Yin Qie Zi was already used to pretending that the maid wasn’t there.

After meeting each other’s eyes, both of them froze in their spots. One of them hadn’t expected the other to be right outside his door; the other was hesitating over whether she should knock or not.

In their hesitation, Fenny said timely, “The flowering season for the Xialan flowers has just started! Miss Mila wants to go for a walk in the garden. Yin Qie Zi, would you like to come along?”

Yin Qie Zi nodded in response. He knew going for a walk was just an excuse; Mila had especially came looking for him. He walked up to Mila and took over the handles for her wheelchair. Following the excuse they’d made, he pushed her towards the garden.

As the flowering season had just started, not many Xialan flowers were in bloom. Most of them were still pink flower buds. They swept their eyes over the swatches of pink that dotted the garden. Despite being buds, they weren’t in any way inferior to the fully bloomed violet Xialan flowers. However, neither Yin Qie Zi nor Mila had the heart to admire the beautiful sight before them.

The two of them stepped onto the path that wound around the garden. Pink flower buds that were brimming with life surrounded them, but neither of them felt any cheeriness at the sight. Mila suddenly asked, “I heard from Owen that you’ll be moving to the palace?”

“Yes, Warlord Paladin ordered me to protect the Leaves.”

Mila replied quietly, “I’m sorry that my father forced you to do something like that. It’s something that doesn’t have anything to with you at all.”

Mila was extremely worried. It was good news that her father was willing to test Yin Qie Zi; it meant he believed that Yin Qie Zi had the qualifications to become her husband. However, she knew Yin Qie Zi didn’t like to be ordered around. She was afraid he’d be angry at this, so much that he’d leave and never come back.

Yin Qie Zi was silent, but then said in a low voice, “Actually, I’m quite happy to have the chance to go to the palace and protect the Leaves. Do you remember? I’m a Flower. Even if I don’t want to save them, I don’t want to hear news of their deaths.”

Mila stared at him in a surprise. A slight smile finally graced her face afterwards. She really had forgotten that Yin Qie Zi was a Flower. She’d been worried that Yin Qie Zi would be angry at being ordered around by her father. She’d never expected the mission to have played exactly to his wishes.

“That’s true. If it’s like that, you don’t have to worry anymore. You can protect them personally! However, remember to be careful, okay?” Mila urged anxiously, “Don’t force yourself when things become dangerous! Your safety is the most important thing!”

Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist asking, “Does that mean you don’t want me to succeed in my mission? If that happens, then…” He suddenly clamped his mouth shut. No matter what, he couldn’t possibly say something like: “If that happens, then I probably won’t be able to marry you anymore.”

Although Yin Qie Zi didn’t finish his words, Mila had already guessed what he was going to say. She immediately blushed to the tips of her ears.

Despite her embarrassment, Mila couldn’t calm the worry in her heart. She urged, “Yin Qie Zi, promise me you won’t risk your life to protect those Leaves. Otherwise, even if I have to beg, I will have my father call off the mission.”

Risk his life… Would he really risk his life to save those Leaves? No! The most important thing to him right now was revenge. He wouldn’t bother with anything that threatened his revenge, even when it came to the Leaves!

“Okay,” Yin Qie Zi readily agreed. “I definitely won’t risk my life. You don’t have to worry.”

Even though she had obtained the answer she wanted, Mila suddenly felt strange. She didn’t believe Yin Qie Zi was someone who would abandon the Leaves and not care about them. She even personally thought of him as a hero who would save the Leaves. However, this hero had just answered her request with a straightforward reply. This was strange no matter how she looked at it!

She turned to look at Yin Qie Zi and asked, “Exactly how do you see the Leaves?”

Yin Qie Zi gazed at her silently. He saw the initial curiosity in Mila’s eyes gradually turn into uncertainty. Just when she was about to open her mouth to say something else, he swiftly cut in and said, “I don’t know! You told me that they had a reason for abandoning me. Because I would lose my mind when the Spirit Tree died. They didn’t have any choice but to abandon me.”

In actuality, the Leaves had made the correct choice. If they had taken him along, then the boats they were riding in would’ve met the same aftermath as the town from back then. The only difference would be that one had sank into the ground while the other would sank into the bottom of the ocean.

After knowing the truth, he had no reason to hate the Leaves for abandoning him. Yet even knowing the Leaves hadn’t done anything wrong, he couldn’t find it in himself to forgive them.

“Why did the Tree give birth me? What’s the point of leaving behind a Flower that would go insane once It died?” Yin Qie Zi asked self-deprecatingly.

He’d even imagined scenarios in which the Tree never gave birth to him. How many people would still be alive? Owen and Mila would never have died. Cas would never have lost his family or become an assassin.

“Yin Qie Zi, Yin Qie Zi―”

“I’m not Yin Qie Zi!” He cut in harshly.

Mila stared at him in surprise. She wasn’t the only one shocked at his answer, even Yin Qie Zi himself paled upon realizing what he’d said. He wasn’t worried that Mila had heard him, but Fenny was another question. He reflexively turned around and searched for Fenny. Unexpectedly, the maid was still standing by the entrance of the garden some 50 meters away from them.

Despite standing far away from each other, Yin Qie Zi’s harsh voice had raised Fenny’s attention. She stared pointedly at him and seemed to be planning to walk over. Mila, however, waved her hand in dismissal, only then did Fenny step back.

She already feels it’s safe enough to stay that far away? Yin Qie Zi was somewhat shocked at this new discovery. If Fenny was that far away, then there was no doubt he could successfully kill Mila.

“If you aren’t Yin Qie Zi, then who are you?”

Yin Qie Zi turned around, Mila was looking at him with her head raised. Her gold hair gleamed in the sunshine, almost blinding him with its light. Although she had asked him that question, not much curiosity could be seen in her expression. An easy smile graced Mila’s face and she spoke as if they were simply having a normal, everyday conversation. She didn’t seem to care whether he answered the question or not.

“Do you have another name? That would make sense. When you were a Flower, you probably didn’t go by your current name, right? Did you change your name to Yin Qie Zi?” Mila asked casually, but Yin Qie Zi saw through her act and knew she wanted to know the answer. She was merely doing her best to suppress her curiosity.

Mila didn’t want to force Yin Qie Zi to answer. She carefully maintained a casual expression and kept her eyes on the flower buds that surrounded them, as if she were appreciating their beauty. However, she couldn’t resist sneaking an occasional glance at Yin Qie Zi. Her green eyes glittered with mirth, appearing like a child who was doing something naughty.

Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist a chuckle at her actions. He bent down and used Mila’s wheelchair to hide himself. He said quietly to Mila, “Don’t tell anyone else, okay?”

Mila didn’t know what it was that she couldn’t tell anyone else, but Yin Qie Zi was crouching beside her feet and looking up at her. Instead of his usual cold expression, he looked as if he were pleading with her… At that moment, Mila felt there wasn’t anything she couldn’t agree to when it came to Yin Qie Zi.

She nodded in promise, but Yin Qie Zi didn’t react. Mila felt something was wrong and opened her mouth to speak. At that moment, Yin Qie Zi’s head of silvery-purple hair started changing color at the ends. Into black!

At first, Mila didn’t notice that the ends of Yin Qie Zi’s hair was turning black. But as the black gradually climbed its way up to the roots of his hair, it was hard not to notice.

Mila stared at Yin Qie Zi in shock. He stared back at her with a somewhat shy expression. His inky black hair matched well with his snowy skin, but worry clouded his red eyes. Mila had a sudden urge to pull Yin Qie Zi into a hug and tell him that he had nothing to worry about.

Of course, she wouldn’t really hug Yin Qie Zi. Putting aside whether it was an appropriate action for her or not, it was somewhat ridiculous for a wheelchair-bound girl to comfort a mighty spiritmancer and tell him he had nothing to worry about. But rather than a spiritmancer, Mila felt that Yin Qie Zi appeared more like a scared child at that moment.

“Black hair really suits you!” Mila couldn’t resist adding, “Can I touch your hair?”

Yin Qie Zi hesitated for a second and a blush rose up on his cheeks. Mila’s request troubled him, but she’d said that his black hair was beautiful. As that made him slightly happy, he didn’t want to reject her.

After arguing left and right with himself, Yin Qie Zi said quietly, “You can only touch it once! Just once!”

Hearing his childish response, Mila almost burst out into laughter. She immediately promised him, “All right, just once. I won’t touch your hair any more than that.”

Mila slowly reached out her hand. Yin Qie Zi lowered his head, practically burying his face into Mila’s skirt.

He can bury his face into a young lady’s skirt but is embarrassed about someone touching his hair? Mila couldn’t refrain from smiling at that thought. She had already noticed long ago that Yin Qie Zi was sensitive about someone touching his hair, which was why she had especially asked him for permission. If he agreed to her request, then to her, it was proof that their relationship had moved another step further.

Like she promised, Mila only touched Yin Qie Zi’s hair once. Her movement was especially soft, but she didn’t remove her hand afterwards, instead she let it rest on Yin Qie Zi’s head. She wasn’t deliberately breaking her promise. She was merely surprised. After touching Yin Qie Zi’s hair, Mila found that his hair wasn’t like human hair at all. His hair was smooth and felt a bit wet, the hair strands were also a lot thicker than a human’s.

Breaking out of her thoughts, Mila was about to remove her hand, but she noticed that Yin Qie Zi hadn’t protested the whole time her hand was on his head. He was still leaning on her knees quietly. Although she can’t see his expression, she noticed that the tips of his ears were red…

Seeing this, Mila suddenly had an inkling of how this was affecting him. She blushed at the realization, but still didn’t remove her hand. She held it lightly on Yin Qie Zi’s hair, afraid to let it move even an inch.

Mila then asked quietly, “Yin Qie Zi, will you tell me your real name one day?”

“…Okay. I will tell you one day.”

Yin Qie Zi rested his head on Mila’s knees, not letting her see his expression. He didn’t even know what kind of expression was on his face at the moment.

Mila, I promise you, I will tell you my real name the day I kill you.

 

Next: Chapter 9: Gong Hua… Abandoning the Flower, Abandoning the Leaves
Previous: Chapter 7: Nightclaw… The Death He Brought and Left Behind
Return: Main Page

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Translator: Nannyn
Proofreaders: dinoj, Sherry

Chapter 7: Nightclaw…The Death He Brought and Left Behind

On January 15, 2016, Posted by , In Gong Hua, tagged in ,, , With 3 Comments

Finally…
I finally found you, Gong Hua!
I’m going to kill you! I will kill you! After I kill you I will, will…
I will what?
―Cas

You killed Aquamarine… You killed my wife!

No matter where you’ve escaped to in Sisha, I will find you and take revenge for my wife!

Yin Qie Zi abruptly woke up. He pulled out his sword from beneath his pillow and jumped out of bed in one swift motion. His whole body stretched taut with tension as he stood ready for battle.

There was someone in his room…

“Don’t panic. It’s me.”

Yin Qie Zi stared blankly in the direction of the voice. The person who had spoken stepped out of the shadows. He was dressed in dark clothes suitable for the night. A scar marred the person’s left eye and a wicked smile lingered at his lips. It was Cas.

After seeing who it was, Yin Qie Zi unwittingly loosened his grip on his sword.

It was laughable that he actually felt at ease upon seeing Cas. The other was someone who hated him to the core. In theory, he should be especially wary about being alone with Cas, but Yin Qie Zi knew Cas wouldn’t kill him so easily… Just like how he wouldn’t kill West so easily.

“That’s one good sword you have.”

Cas stared at the sword in Yin Qie Zi’s hand. He quickly figured out that it was a first-rate sword made by a master craftsman. Even a fortune wouldn’t be enough to buy a sword like that.

“Where’d you get it? Steal it?”

“Did you sneak in here in the middle of the night to ask about my sword?” Yin Qie Zi replied snappily.

“Of course not.”

Cas walked over to Yin Qie Zi’s bed and plopped down without any reservation. He crossed his legs and asked, “Are you going to tell me or not?”

Yin Qie Zi stayed quiet, but then responded lightly, “What if I don’t want to tell you?”

“Heh!” Cas’ expression darkened. “Don’t want to tell me? Are you saying you don’t know the consequences of that?”

Yin Qie Zi chuckled coolly and said, “If my identity ever gets exposed, I will either escape or be murdered. Which one do you want to see the most? I’m sure it’s neither.”

Seeing that Yin Qie Zi wasn’t going to tell him anything, Cas stood up and rested his hands on the handles of his daggers. He said coldly, “I think chopping you into bits and pieces is what I’d like to see right now.”

The two of them stood silently, divided only by a bed. One of them holding onto a sword and the other ready to pull out dual daggers at any moment. If one of them dared to move an inch, they’d probably battle to the death right then and there.

Yin Qie Zi and Cas stayed in their positions for quite a while, but ultimately, nothing occurred. Yin Qie Zi slowly sheathed his sword and said quietly, “This sword’s name is Nightclaw.”

Cas stared at him in shock. “Nightclaw? The beast that attacked us back then?”

Yin Qie Zi nodded and explained, “Owen was the one who named the sword Nightclaw. Probably because we’d obtained this sword from Nightclaw’s hands.”

“From Nightclaw?” Cas frowned and asked suspiciously, “Did he give us a sword back then?”

“It wasn’t during that attack. It was when the Danyas breached Chakou City. The army was escaping to the west, leaving a trail of bodies behind them. Nightclaw appeared during that time…”

***

“Gong Hua! Gong Hua!”

Owen was calling his name nonstop, the other’s voice coming from behind him. This assured Gong Hua greatly. He wanted to turn around and see how Owen was doing, but he was unable to do so as there were simply too many soldiers in front of him. He had to focus on instructing the vines to ward off the enemy soldiers that were threatening to overwhelm them like an unstoppable tide.

Most of the Danya soldiers who’d fought their way into the city had hands dyed red with the blood of humans. They weren’t the least bit afraid of the wrist and waist-thick vines Gong Hua were using. Although the soldiers appeared bewildered by the vines’ movements, they merely brandished their swords and cut the vines into pieces. They weren’t afraid at all.

“Gong Hua!”

Owen pulled Gong Hua towards him. When he saw the other’s tear-streaked face, he paused in surprise and couldn’t help ask, “What’s wrong?”

Fear clouded Gong Hua’s face and a tremor took over his voice. “Owen, th-they are scary…”

“Don’t be afraid. We’ll leave right now!”

Owen took hold of him and looked back at West, who was still staring blankly at Gong Hua. Owen quickly reminded his cousin, “Ge, we have to leave!”

Hearing Owen, West finally snapped out of his reverie. He looked at Gong Hua. What he saw was no longer a weak girl, but a frighteningly powerful existence. In a trembling voice, he asked, “E-exactly who is she?”

“Now’s not the time to worry about that! We have to go!”

The three of them mixed in with the escaping crowd and headed for the city gate. The sky was a dusky grey that made it hard to see where they were going, but everybody was escaping in the same direction, so they had no doubts where they were headed. Moreover, as they had Gong Hua’s vines for protection, they managed to reach the city gate uninjured.

Before they could even let out a breath, noise of an uproar drifted over from the front. A loud rumbling immediately sounded afterwards. The double doors of the city gate was closing!

Seeing what was happening, the crowd rushed toward the gate even more desperately. People pushed and shoved their way to the front, fearing that they would be shut inside the city. There were simply too many people trying to escape. Many tripped and fell to the ground, only to be trodden underfoot by the frantic crowd, never to climb back up again.

Owen knew they would never reach the gate like this. He quickly pulled the other two out of the crowd, fearing that they would be trampled to death. The three of them took refuge under the eaves of a house. They took in the panicked expressions on the soldiers that passed by them. It was everyone for themselves. Panic took over their hearts; they had no idea what to do next.

“Owen, those scary people are here!” Gong Hua suddenly exclaimed.

Owen turned to look. A mass of Danya soldiers were moving towards them. The soldiers held pikes in their hands, the pointed tips aimed forward. The pikemen stood in a uniform file, not a hint of the desire to escape apparent on their faces. As they had shut the city gate, it was obvious that the Danyas were planning to wipe out every member of the human army.

Owen quickly shouted, “Gong Hua! Take us out of here!”

Even if Owen hadn’t said anything, Gong Hua still would have done so. This place was filled with fear and death. He didn’t want to stay in the city another second longer!

Wrist-thick vines erupted out of the ground, taking hold of the three of them around the waist. The vines climbed over the roof of the house and scaled up the city wall, pulling them up and out of the city.

Their journey up the city wall drew many eyes to them. There were numerous Danya soldiers situated on the wall; they had a perfectly clear view of what was happening. But what they saw was something beyond what common logic could explain. The Danyas stood still in shock, not even remembering to attack. However, they didn’t stay shocked for long. They were still fighting a war. The humans down below were still frenziedly attacking the city gate trying to escape.

Beside the Danyas, West was also shocked. He knew that some powerful physical spirits were capable of using spirits to attack. He also knew that some could move objects using their will, but it was his first time seeing a physical spirit move objects so adeptly, as if these vines were merely extensions of her arms and legs. Moreover, it seemed like these vines had been grown in an instant.

“Ge, we have to go! Quickly!” Owen pulled at West. He urged, “The Danyas will catch up to us in a few minutes!”

West nodded numbly and followed after Owen for a few steps. Suddenly, screams sounded behind him.

“Let me out! The Danyas are here to kill us!”

“Save me! I don’t want to die!”

“There’s no way we can get out. Everyone turn around and attack!”

Ah―

“N-no!” West paused. The sounds of killing and pleas for help mixed into one continuous din, swirling in and out of his ears. The pleas for help were spoken in the human language. When he thought of his fellow soldiers being mercilessly slaughtered, pain filled his heart. He grabbed Owen and said difficultly, “Owen, Owen, we can’t leave… Our comrades are being slaughtered inside there! We can’t let the Danyas massacre everyone in Chakou!”

Owen stared at him in surprise, finally hearing the screams for help. The more he listened, the more fearful he became, and the more he couldn’t turn around and walk away.

“Owen!” West said hurriedly, “We have to at least open the gate! We have to give them a way to escape!”

Upon hearing West, Owen finally realized what he could do. He quickly turned and ordered, “Gong Hua, use some bigger vines, like… like the ones you used to destroy that town. Use them and break open this gate.”

Owen still remembered the marks those vines had left on the ground. The vines that had rolled over the town and destroyed it were not the wrist-thick ones in front of him right now; they were the size of a massive beast. If vines of those size were to appear, then they could break open the gate. When the Danyas see those vines, they would definitely feel… an unimaginable terror.

“We can’t leave?” Gong Hua asked timidly.

Seeing Gong Hua’s frightened expression, Owen quickly placated, “We’ll leave after we open the gate.”

Gong Hua nodded in response and turned to face the gate. His black hair strands floated up, gradually surrounding him in a dark mass of floating hair. The darkness that enveloped him didn’t only consist of hair, a black fog gradually cloaked the strands of his hair and the spaces in between, becoming darker and darker. In the thick darkness that shrouded Gong Hua, the only thing that shined brightly were his blood-red eyes.

“H-how could she turn so…” West paused, he found that he couldn’t think of any words capable of describing the scene he was witnessing.

Owen was also stunned at the sight. He had never seen Gong Hua appear this way.

Gong Hua’s floating hair abruptly halted its movements. At that moment, two massive vines pierced through the earth near Gong Hua’s feet. The resounding crack the vines made was clear and distinct even over the sounds of the raucous battlefield. The city was suddenly taken over by a stunned silence.

West was dumbstruck with shock. Owen tilted his head to look at the vines that towered above him, his heart filled with fear. He couldn’t help but think of the small town that had been ravaged by these vines. Even if he was a soldier, even if he knew the vines would not attack him, he couldn’t hold back the horror of seeing those enormous vines. Did the residents of that town―mere helpless citizens―feel even more dread and desperation when they gazed upon those vines?

The two vines aimed straight for the city gate. Owen started at the sight and quickly grabbed Gong Hua. He yelled, “Stop! You’ll kill the soldiers behind the gate if you ram it directly!”

Gong Hua halted the vines in their tracks and turned to look at Owen. His face was largely covered by his hair, his blood-red eyes were the only things that were exposed. He stared at Owen unblinkingly.

Unconsciously, Owen released his grip on Gong Hua. He took a step back, fear rising in his heart. Did Gong Hua lose all her rationality again?

“Owen?” Gong Hua took a step toward him.

Hearing Gong Hua’s voice, Owen paused. The other’s voice was still timid; Gong Hua hadn’t lost control at all. At this, Owen decided to truly look at Gong Hua. He stared past the terrifying cloud of black hair and directly at the person inside. What he saw was a girl who didn’t know what to do next.

Seeing this, Owen’s heart softened. He quietly ordered, “Don’t use too much strength. Use the vines to hit the metal parts around the gate. The bronze-colored ones. Do you see them?”

“Yes.” Gong Hua nodded cleverly.

At that moment, another round of screams from inside the city pierced the air. Alarmed, Owen yelled, “Gong Hua, hurry!”

The vines shot toward the gate the minute Gong Hua turned around. Like Owen ordered, the vines rammed against the borders of the gate, but the metal parts did not break with the first hit. The vines struck the gate for another five to six times before cracks started appearing. After a few more hits, the earsplitting sound of metal breaking apart filled the air. The left part of the gate tilted and started to fall.

This’ll lower the number of casualties, right? Although we can’t save everyone… Owen thought regretfully to himself.

Just when the left part of the gate was about to crash into the ground, vines shot out and wrapped around it. The vines pulled backwards, bringing the gate with them. When they were far enough from the city, the vines flung the gate aside.

A mass of soldiers were standing behind the gate, but none of them were injured from the gate falling down. They stared blankly at each other for a few seconds, but then realized there was nothing obstructing their escape route and rushed out of the city like a violent tide.

Owen was surprised that Gong Hua had done something he hadn’t told her to do and saved the soldiers from being crushed. Gong Hua turned around to look at him, a questioning expression on her face. She appeared somewhat worried, as if she didn’t know whether she had done the right thing.

Owen felt an urge to laugh when he saw the other’s expression. He reached out and rubbed Gong Hua’s head. While smiling, he said, “You did well. Good child.”

A happy smile appeared on Gong Hua’s face. He turned around and used vines to tear the remaining part of the gate out of the wall. Like with the other, the vines pulled it out and flung it away.

Owen silently watched Gong Hua’s actions. He couldn’t help but feel that if Gong Hua had met Mila or him first, they could’ve avoided the tragedy that occurred at that small town. Gong Hua didn’t possess any evil intentions in her. The only thing she needed was guidance.

Although the falling gate didn’t cause any injuries, the soldiers’ desperate need to escape caused many to be trampled to death. The situation seemed to be worsening rather than improving. The Danyas also seemed restless at the sight of the escaping soldiers as dying screams kept drifting out of the city. This only made the soldiers shove harder.

“Stop shoving!”

West roared angrily, “Are any of you acting like soldiers? Stop this right now! You’re stepping on your own comrades!”

Owen stared at his cousin in shock, but then turned around and directed an order at Gong Hua.

West was irritated that the soldiers weren’t listening to him. At that moment, something wrapped tightly around his waist. Before he could even react, his whole person lifted off the ground. West exclaimed in alarm as he flew five or six meters into the air. In his panic, he heard Owen shouting at him down below.

“Ge! Say something! Everyone’s looking at you!”

West paused in surprise, but noticed that every soldier had indeed raised their heads to stare at him. Terrified expressions still decorated the soldiers’ faces, but at least he had their attention. At this, West ignored his own fear of flying and roared at the soldiers below, “Listen to me!”

The soldiers stared in astonishment at West soaring high above the ground, their fear of the Danyas momentarily forgotten. They recognized West’s uniform. Seeing that a superior officer was amongst them, most of the soldiers finally calmed down.

“Make way―”

Before West could finish his order, an arrow flew past him and scraped his cheek. Alarmed, he turned his head and saw a rain of arrows coming at them from the direction of the city wall. He yelled in fear and moved to step back, but then realized that he was still hovering in the air. Where could he step back to? He could only watch the rain of arrows coming down…

Seeing what was happening, Owen quickly yelled, “Gong Hua!”

Gong Hua stretched out his right hand. Vines exploded from the ground under West’s feet and immediately expanded into a web of vines that protected them from the arrows.

Everyone was rendered speechless by the display. In their moment of awe, numerous vines sprouted quietly beneath the city walls. They snaked up the walls, quickly overtaking it in height. The vines split apart, giving rise to multiple branches. The branches mixed and banded together, covering every last corner of the sky in green, appearing like an extension of the city wall. Only, this wall wasn’t protecting the city from invaders, but confining the archers on the city wall.

West hesitated for a moment after seeing the wall made of vines rise up. Should they escape now or stage a counterattack?

He looked around him. The soldiers who’d made it out of the gate have already calmed down, but they were still being pushed and shoved along by soldiers at their back. Even if they wanted to stop, the torrent at their back carried them forward.

West looked at his fellow soldiers. Fear still clouded their faces, not a single bit of courage could be found. Their state of dress was a mess and few were carrying weapons. It seemed they had been forced to escape for their lives right after waking up. These soldiers couldn’t fight a war right now!

Helpless to do anything and unable to suppress the pain in his heart, West shouted an order at the broken army:

“All soldiers retreat!”

***

The fallen army escaped from the city. New soldiers grouped with them halfway through the journey, but more fell down and died along the way.

Corpses littered the road, dyeing the ground the same color as the red carpets used for banquets. The escaping army left behind a trail of blood that stretched as far as the eye could see.

The Danyas who were chasing after the human army dared not step on the trail. Even a soldier in the throes of insanity would not be able to suppress a shudder upon seeing that carpet made of flesh and blood.

The honored guest who dared to step on this red carpet was a spirit beast, Nightclaw.

He had followed the stink of blood and rotting flesh here. As usual, he brought with him a pack of beasts. The pack had been growing each year, now appearing like a small-scale army.

The Danyas carefully avoided contact with this pack of beasts, not wanting to incite any unnecessary trouble. However, the escaping human army didn’t have the luxury of doing that. They had escaped from Chakou on the spur, they were running out of food and some days they couldn’t even find water to drink. They could only pray that there was a river or a lake ahead of the road. They didn’t have the time to worry about the pack of beasts behind them.

Fortunately, Nightclaw did not plan on catching up to the humans and killing them off. He stayed behind them, waiting for the teetering humans to fall down by themselves. Only then would he leap forward and feed to his desire.

He only used to appear during the night, but now the humans could see him chasing after them brazenly during the day. Nightclaw tore apart the fallen bodies under the scorching sun, some of the corpses still alive enough to let out a weak cry for help.

The Danyas were terrifying, but no matter how terrifying they were they didn’t eat humans!

Fearing that they would be eaten, some soldiers deserted the procession line and ran for their lives. They never imagined that they only made themselves easier targets for the beasts. Sounds of horror and death erupted all around the army. The soldiers didn’t dare leave the line anymore; the despair in their hearts rose up another notch.

After hearing another scream of agony, West couldn’t even swallow the meat they seldom got a chance to eat. He growled furiously, “We can’t continue like this! The beasts are increasing in number. If this continues, they’ll start attacking us sooner or later!”

Owen didn’t respond, not even to remind his cousin to lower his voice. The soldiers were already terrified of the beasts, seeing their superior lose control and yell wouldn’t make it any worse.

“We have the Danyas chasing after us during the day and now we have to be on guard against those beasts during the night. If anyone dares to desert the line, the beasts will pounce and eat them alive. Alive! How are we going to make it through this?”

At that, West’s eyes drifted over to the person sitting at Owen’s left. Gong Hua always sat in the same spot beside Owen, often with his head lowered. He never spoke and never left Owen’s side.

Seeing where West was looking, Owen’s heart sank. He said, “We don’t know for certain that Gong Hua can defeat Nightclaw.”

Moreover, she hates killing. Although the reason was laughable, he and Gong Hua were essentially serving as shields while the army escaped. They were in charge of defending against the Danyas’ attacks. Most of the time, large scale slaughtering was the only effective way.

West hesitated for a second, but asked, “Can’t we at least try?”

Owen exploded in anger. He roared at West, “Try? What if she can’t defeat him? Even if you don’t care about Gong Hua’s life, you should at least ask yourself who’s going to defend us against the Danyas when she gets injured!”

West didn’t cower in the face of Owen’s anger; contrarily, he roared even louder at Owen, “Then tell me, what are we going to do? If we continue like this, how many soldiers do you think will make it back to the Old Zhan Plains? Can you stand watching your own comrades being eaten alive by those beasts?”

As if to prove West’s words, cries of distress sliced the air far away. It didn’t sound like one or two people screaming, but a group of ten or more.

West and Owen both jumped up in alarm, ugly expressions mirrored on their faces. The screams didn’t stop, instead more followed and seemed to be getting louder and closer.

“Don’t tell me…” At a complete loss of what to do, West asked, “The beasts really are attacking us?”

The soldiers around them became restless, some calling out “Zong Xiao” and looking to West for instructions. However, West didn’t have anything planned, he only wanted to take some soldiers and go save the others from the beasts’ jaws. But everyone was tired and hungry; they were all at their limits. Not to mention ordering soldiers to put their lives at stake and go fight the beasts, West felt like the whole army would break apart if a light wind swept over them right now.

West’s eyes floated over to rest on Gong Hua. Not only him, other soldiers also started looking in Gong Hua’s direction. Most of them knew Gong Hua had a special power; some had even personally witnessed Gong Hua using vines to kill Danyas.

Normally, the soldiers would never come anywhere near Gong Hua, but amidst the clamor made by the screams and the growls from the beasts, they couldn’t help but move closer to him.

“Don’t look at her!” Owen spread his arms and blocked Gong Hua from view. He was furious enough that even he wanted to have a bite at West and the other soldiers.

West didn’t say anything, but he didn’t need to. The screams and growls that were moving ever closer did all the speaking for him.

Once again, Owen was faced with a difficult decision. Then again, he had to make difficult decisions every single day. Would he rather watch Gong Hua slay the Danyas or watch the Danyas slay his own fellow soldiers?

Owen never deliberately ignored the soliders’ cries for help before. No matter how reluctant, in the end, he’d bring Gong Hua to the back of the troops to fend off the Danyas. Their enemies right now were beasts. Would it be any lighter on his conscience if they were going to kill beasts instead of Danyas?

Even then, he was worried that Nightclaw would attack Gong Hua. Can Gong Hua defeat such a terrifying spirit beast? What if she couldn’t win…

Owen suddenly felt a pull on his clothes. He reflexively looked over and saw that it was Gong Hua.

Gong Hua said nervously, “Owen, don’t be angry. It’ll be fine if I just kill Nightclaw, right? I’ll go kill him. Don’t be angry.”

Upon hearing that Gong Hua’s only reason for killing Nightclaw was so that he wouldn’t be angry, Owen felt he had been slammed against a wall. There was so much pain in his heart that he couldn’t even reply. If he really thought the best for Gong Hua, then he should take her and leave this place far behind. Like Mila said, they should go to a different country and never come back.

In a hoarse voice, Owen asked, “Gong Hua, can you defeat Nightclaw?” Mila, if you knew I let Gong Hua kill, you’d probably yell at me, right? But if I don’t let Gong Hua go, how many soldiers will make it out of this alive?

Gong Hua hesitated for a moment. He had fought with Nightclaw before, but neither of them had brought out their full strength. He didn’t know whether he could defeat Nightclaw. When he lifted his head and saw Owen’s expression, however, he couldn’t resist nodding and replying, “Yes, I can defeat him!”

Hearing Gong Hua’s reply, Owen was a bit relieved. At least Gong Hua’s life wouldn’t come under any harm.

“Owen, can you stay here instead of coming with me?” Gong Hua requested in a quiet voice.

Owen stared at the other blankly. Ever since Mila died, Gong Hua had refused to leave his side. Why was Gong Hua requesting him to stay here now?

“I’m going to kill Nightclaw. It’ll be very dangerous over there. Owen, don’t come with me.”

After he finished speaking, Gong Hua let the vines wrap around him. Owen immediately shouted at him to wait, but Gong Hua left without turning around.

In shock, Owen stared after Gong Hua for a moment, and then ran after him.

West quickly grabbed hold of his cousin. “Owen, she already told you to not follow her. It’s dangerous. Didn’t you hear?”

Flustered, Owen said, “I need to go and see. Gong Hua, s-she would never leave my side if not for something big. S-she probably can’t defeat―Ah!”

In the middle of speaking, two vines sprouted on either side of Owen and twisted to wrap around him. His footing unstable, Owen soon found himself lying flat on the ground. Just when he was about to yell at West to cut the vines apart, one wrapped around his mouth, sealing off his voice. The only thing he could do was stare at West with wide eyes.

Looking at Owen lying on the ground unable to move or speak, West mumbled, “I’m starting to like that girl…”

***

Gong Hua moved in the direction of the screams. Luckily, the exact spot of where the beasts were gathered wasn’t too hard to find. He only had to go the opposite direction of where the soldiers were escaping.

Soon after, he spotted the towering, light blue figure of Nightclaw. The spirit beast wasn’t participating in the killings; he merely sat crouched on the roof of a carriage. Nightclaw’s six eyes turned rapidly in their sockets, his two tails dancing about constantly in the air.

After getting closer, Gong Hua stopped moving, for Nightclaw had stood up. The spirit beast had already noticed Gong Hua.

One, two, all six of Nightclaw’s eyes rolled to a rest on Gong Hua. Having caught sight of their savior, the soldiers who were still alive recklessly ran towards Gong Hua with a beast hot on their tails.

While running, the soldiers yelled at Gong Hua, “Save us!”

Seeing that the beast was about to pounce on them, Gong Hua lifted a hand, vines immediately pierced through the ground and sent the beast flying.

Panting, the soldiers ran to Gong Hua’s side. After catching their breath, they looked back to see that their pursuer was gone. Still caught in the throes of fear, they struggled to speak, only managing to squeeze out a word of thanks after a long while. “Th-thank you!”

Gong Hua looked at them in surprise; it was the first time anyone other than Owen tried to speak with him in a long while. He couldn’t help but remind them, “Run! This place is dangerous!” While speaking, he moved the vines around and saved various other soldiers who were about to be attacked.

Dread clouded the soldiers’ faces. One of them spoke up, “B-but there are beasts everywhere…”

Gong Hua looked at them and instinctively knew that these soldiers wouldn’t be able to outrun the beasts. He reached out with his hand, once again forming a web of vines that protected them. “Don’t be afraid. Run! I’ll hold them off.”

Seeing that the beasts were blocked off by the web, the soldiers immediately ran for their lives.

The beasts became furious when they saw their meal running farther and farther away. But they were helpless against the web of vines. Some of the stronger beasts started tearing at the vines, but the minute they bit one apart, two grew in its place. It would take them ages to clear all the vines!

Although the one controlling these vines was standing right to the side, the beasts were keenly aware that Gong Hua wasn’t someone they should provoke. None of the beasts dared to step up and attack Gong Hua.

ROAR!

The pack of beasts turned to look at Nightclaw, the latter’s earsplitting roar shaking the earth in its magnitude. Afterwards, Nightclaw made his way towards Gong Hua with swift and graceful steps, his pack parting to make a path for him

“What is the reason for this?”

Nightclaw leapt right in front of Gong Hua. He had already recognized the other; there was only one Flower on this continent who wandered the land lost like him. It was the second time this Flower had come to obstruct him; Nightclaw was truly a bit angry. He growled lowly, “You are a Flower of the Leaf Tribe. Why do you interfere in my affairs and protect the humans time after time?”

“I’m here to kill you,” Gong Hua replied straightforwardly.

Nightclaw stared at the other in shock. Battles between two physical spirits were rare, but that didn’t mean they didn’t occur. Most of the time, these kinds of battles occurred between beast-type spirits. A guardian spirit like the Flower was a physical spirit that never directly provoked others. Other physical spirits often avoided contact with them as well. Guardian spirits never left the land they protected, so inciting them on their own land was the stupidest move one could ever make!

But this Flower wasn’t standing on his own land right now. His targets of protection also weren’t the Leaf Tribe. And he had even willingly started a challenge. If Nightclaw hadn’t seen the Flower’s abilities before, he would never believe that the physical spirit in front of him was a Flower.

“Is there no other option?”

Gong Hua tilted his head and said, “If you leave right now and promise not to chase and kill these humans anymore, then we don’t have to fight.”

“I have not slaughtered any of these humans. I merely picked up the meat that was left on the ground. Is even this not allowed?” Nightclaw replied furiously.

Surprised, Gong Hua stared at him blankly. He asked sincerely, “You haven’t kill any humans? But the beasts that follow you have killed many of them. Can you tell them to stop?”

“Nonsense!” Nightclaw laughed despite his fury. “Humans kill beasts and feast on their flesh. Are beasts not permitted to do the same and have their fill of human flesh? Are we not permitted to clean up the fresh meat lying on the ground? Must we instead allow them to rot beyond the state of ingestion?”

Gong Hua paused after listening to Nightclaw’s explanation. He felt there was reason to Nightclaw’s words. Along the way, many of the soldiers had caught animals to eat. Of course, none of them were the type that killed and chased after humans. The soldiers mostly trapped and caught small animals that were frequently seen in forests. As it was like this, what was wrong with beasts killing and eating humans?

Gong Hua didn’t know the answer to that question and decided to stop thinking about it altogether. He said stubbornly, “Leave, otherwise I’ll kill you!”

Nightclaw responded angrily, “I am a spirit that chases after the stink of blood and carnage. I have neither the means nor the reasons of betraying that path! Flower, if you do not return to your correct path and insist on fighting alongside the humans, death will be the only end for you.”

Correct path… Gong Hua said quietly, “I have been abandoned by the Leaf Tribe. They don’t want me. I don’t have any Leaves to protect. There is no correct path for me.”

“How ridiculous! As you still exist, there must be a correct path for you. You are merely lost for the moment, but that does not mean the path is nonexistent.”

Gong Hua didn’t want to listen any longer. The Leaf Tribe wasn’t around anymore, for him, the only person who was still beside him was Owen. Because of this, he would use everything in his power to protect Owen.

Vines, attack.

 

Next: Chapter 8: Mila… The Promise of the Past and the Present
Previous: Chapter 6: Blue…The Melancholic Past and Present
Return: Main Page

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Translator: Nannyn
Proofreaders: dinoj, PiKairi

Chapter 6: Blue…The Melancholic Past and Present

On November 1, 2015, Posted by , In Gong Hua, tagged in ,, , With 8 Comments

Servile Spirits Tribe? The hell are they? What does their tribe have to do with the information I want?
Is the king’s intelligence team only capable of obtaining this kind of useless information?
Wait…Servile spirits take it upon themselves to find physical spirits and become their servants… They serve physical spirits?
Gong Hua, don’t tell me there’s a shorty by your side?
Ha! That’ll make you much easier to find.

―Cas

 

Under the surveillance of two guards, the Leaf that was being auctioned off walked onto the stage. She was not bound by fetters and was wearing a clean white dress, appearing very pure and beautiful.

Although her features were beautiful, she was extremely thin. Even when using Leaves as the standard, she was still extremely thin. Her expression wasn’t unpleasant enough to say she was miserable, but she certainly didn’t appear happy. Compared to the blank-faced Leaves locked up in the prison, she appeared much more worried.

After seeing the Leaf that was being auctioned off, Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt that it might be good to take her away from this place. He couldn’t do anything to make her happy, but he could at least make sure she had enough to eat so that she wouldn’t look like she was going to fall over at any moment.

“That’s a female right?”

Owen turned around and asked excitedly. Yin Qie Zi glared at him. The Leaf was clearly wearing a dress, anyone with eyes could tell she was female. Was there even a need to ask?

“Could you give that Leaf to me?”

Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise, and then realized that it had been Jin Qi Er who had spoken. Jin Qi Er had on a frightened and uneasy expression. As a tall and mighty Danya, it was rather funny to see that sort of expression appear on his face.

“How can you go back on your promise like this? Are you Danyas really this mistrustful of others?” Owen growled out furiously.

“Owen!” Edward immediately sternly reprimanded his friend.

“It’s all right!” Jin Qi Er explained quickly, “It’s not that I don’t trust you. I only want to exchange one of the Leaves from the peace offerings for this one. You can personally choose a Leaf from the ten we’ve received! How about this, I’ll even pay the bid for that Leaf!” After he finished speaking, Jin Qi Er immediately turned to his subordinates and ordered them to bid on the Leaf.

Everyone was stunned by Jin Qi Er’s request. Unless Yin Qie Zi insisted on taking the Leaf that was being auctioned off, Jin Qi Er’s offer wasn’t the least bit advantageous or detrimental to him. Because of this, Yin Qie Zi simply didn’t understand why Jin Qi Er would make this sort of offer.

“Are you personally acquainted with that Leaf onstage?” Yin Qie Zi was somewhat surprised. He originally thought Jin Qi Er had come to the auction because he simply wanted to buy another Leaf and that he wasn’t looking for a specific one.

“No, I don’t know her,” Jin Qi Er replied awkwardly. “It’s only because she has blue hair.”

Blue hair? Yin Qie Zi stared blankly at Jin Qi Er for a moment, but then he had a sudden epiphany. He abruptly remembered the Leaf called Aquamarine. Did Jin Qi Er perhaps want to bring this Leaf back and gift her to Indigo?

If that was the case… Yin Qie Zi looked at the Leaf onstage. Her head was lowered and not much expression could be seen on her face. Her slightly hollow cheeks added a weathered look to her appearance.

Instead of letting her stay at his side, wouldn’t it be better to send her to Indigo? If it were Indigo, he would treat her well. Yin Qie Zi turned around and told Jin Qi Er, “Promise me you’ll take good care of her on the way back to Danya.”

Jin Qi Er paused, but then quickly replied, “Of course!”

Yin Qie Zi nodded in response, but then realized he should have asked for Owen and Mila’s opinions before agreeing. He quickly asked the two, “This should be fine, right?”

Owen scratched his face. He wasn’t opposed to Jin Qi Er’s offer. It was even better now that he didn’t have to pay for a Leaf.

Mila also didn’t have any objections. The only reason she and Owen wanted to buy a Leaf was because they wanted to gift it to Yin Qie Zi, a Flower, and prevent him from saving the Leaves who were acting as peace offerings. They didn’t mind if the Leaf wasn’t bought from the auction as long as they could give it to Yin Qie Zi.

“Then why don’t we leave first? I have to go back and prepare the materials I need to make the medicine. It’ll be a rather tight schedule to have it all ready in two weeks.”

Yin Qie Zi stood up after speaking. It was certainly inappropriate for him to leave before the prince and foreign emissaries, but Jin Qi Er immediately stood up at his words and spoke as if asking Yin Qie Zi a big favor. “Then I’ll be troubling you with this.”

“You can send the special spirits I need to the Warlord’s estate. I am living there at the moment. It’d be best if I could have them by tonight.” Yin Qie Zi didn’t hold back and bluntly ordered.

“No problem!” Jin Qi Er nodded in agreement. He then remembered that he was going to gift a Leaf to Yin Qie Zi and asked quickly, “When will you come to select a Leaf?”

“You can pick one and deliver it to me.”

Finished speaking, Yin Qie Zi walked up and grabbed the handles of Mila’s wheelchair. He pushed her out of the box, Fenny naturally following after them. Owen remained behind to keep Prince Edward company.

The hallway was especially quiet; they came across virtually no one. Most of the attendees were still in the great hall or private boxes participating in the bidding of various merchandises. They occasionally passed by a few attendants in the hallway, whose hands were laden down with plates of food, catalogs, and other things as they rushed about.

As she was sitting in her wheelchair, Mila was unable to see Yin Qie Zi’s expression, but she didn’t try to turn around. She simply asked, “What’s wrong?”

“…I don’t want to see her.”

“You mean the Leaf that is being auctioned off?”

Yin Qie Zi was quiet for a moment, but nodded in the end. “Yes.”

In a consulting voice, Mila asked, “Then when Jin Qi Er brings over the Leaf he’s promised you, should we let the servants take care of it first? You don’t have to rush to see the Leaf, is that alright?”

Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise. He never realized he could do things this way.

Mila smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure the servants take good care of the Leaf and turn it white and chubby!”

Yin Qie Zi smiled faintly. “Thank you.”

“Then why don’t we go home―”

Fenny suddenly walked up and interrupted. “The weather is so nice tonight. Wouldn’t it be a shame to go home so early? In any case, if we leave first, the carriage will have to come back and take the young master home. That would simply be too much trouble. Why don’t we go for a walk first and wait for Young Master Owen? I know the perfect place for stargazing and it’s nearby―”

“Fenny! That’s enough. Yin Qie Zi has to go back and prepare the materials he needs to make the medicine.” This time it was Mila who cut in, looking angry and humiliated.

Unexpectedly, Yin Qie Zi said, “That was only an excuse. Spending an hour or two out here wouldn’t hurt. Let’s go.”

The other two were surprised at his answer. Not to mention Mila, even Fenny who had suggested the idea never thought he would agree.

“What’s wrong?” Yin Qie Zi felt their reactions were strange.

“It’s only that…” Mila was hesitant and spoke haltingly, “I didn’t think you would agree. I thought you would prefer to go back home first and research spirit medicines or something. Owen did say you dislike going outside…”

Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise, but then said unhappily, “Owen probably told you a bunch of things, but forgot to tell you about other things. It’s true that I didn’t go out much this year. But I was a traveler before I came to Qi Feng and had settled down here for only a year. The way Owen describes it makes it seem like I never went out the door my entire life.”

Mila was taken aback and asked curiously, “Owen did say you were a traveler before you came to Qi Feng, but he never mentioned that you had been traveling the whole time before coming to this city. Since when did you start traveling around?”

Yin Qie Zi smiled at Mila’s question, but instead of responding, he asked Fenny for directions and slowly pushed Mila’s wheelchair towards the stargazing site.

He explained as he walked, “I first started traveling with my teacher ten years ago, and only started traveling by myself these recent years. Well… I can’t really say I’m by myself as my servant Litelli is with me.”

What he had told Mila was only half-true. The only part he’d left out of his explanation was that his teacher was in fact Litelli. At that time, Litelli went by the name Lequilier and was a famous spirit binder. To avoid running into unwanted trouble, Yin Qie Zi had changed the other’s name to Litelli.

He had definitely learned the craft of spirit binding from Litelli, so it wasn’t inaccurate to call Litelli his teacher. Only, this teacher of his secretly held the concurrent job of being his servant.

“You started traveling when you were only ten years old?” Mila was surprised by his explanation. “That young? Traveling around must have been difficult for you?”

Yin Qie Zi smiled and said quietly, “Did you forget who I am? My appearance was the same ten years ago. I wasn’t a ten-year-old child.”

Mila was shocked at his answer, but then remembered Yin Qie Zi wasn’t the twenty-year-old young man he proclaimed to be. His true age had to be over fifty years old. The things he had gone through in his life were things normal people would never experience. The entire Leaf Tribe had moved to a different continent, leaving him behind, alone…

“It definitely was a difficult path, getting to where I am now,” Yin Qie Zi replied simply.

Upon hearing Yin Qie Zi’s response, Mila felt an ache inside her heart. Yin Qie Zi’s words hadn’t been sorrowful and his voice had been rather indifferent, but it was because of this indifference that he gave off the feeling that he had already experienced all the trials life had to offer.

“It must have been difficult.” Mila didn’t know how to comfort the other. Yin Qie Zi had been abandoned by his entire tribe… How would she go about comforting him?

Yin Qie Zi didn’t respond. His entire path, how could it simply be described as “difficult?”

At that moment, Fenny spoke up quietly, “Miss, we’re here.”

Yin Qie Zi and Mila raised their heads to look at the sky and exclaimed in awe unanimously. They were at the end of the sidewalk, in a rather remote area that was sparsely lit. Not a single soul could be seen around them. But because of that, the stars that covered the sky above shined particularly bright, appearing especially enchanting to the eyes.

Yin Qie Zi wasn’t a stranger to star-filled skies like these; he had seen night skies that were even more beautiful. When he was still going by the name Gong Hua, he had sat under the Spirit Tree for many years with nothing to do. As a result, he would look up and gaze at the night sky to pass the time. The forest was much darker than the cities. There weren’t any artificial lights that smothered the splendor of the stars, so the sky naturally appeared more beautiful.

In reality, however, Yin Qie Zi didn’t pay any attention to the stars back then. What he truly looked at and appreciated was the night itself; it was the only thing that was similar in color to him. He even found the stars irritating to look at. They simply shined too bright and discolored the pure black of the night sky.

“Every time I look at the stars, I am reminded of how small I am in comparison!” Mila exclaimed admiringly.

Yin Qie Zi looked down at Mila. She had her head raised and was gazing at the sky, her green eyes reflecting the twinkles of thousands of stars. She seemed even more beautiful than usual. Her beauty did not lose even when compared to that of the Leaf that had being auctioned off. She only appeared livelier in comparison. But because of this, the people around her felt it was a pity that she was disabled.

However, Yin Qie Zi did not think Mila was pitiful. She might have trouble walking, but what did that matter? She had a bright, beautiful smile, a pair of glittering green eyes like a lake’s surface, and even the sunflower-colored hair that he liked the most…

He looked down at Mila’s golden hair, but then noticed the hairclip she was wearing. It was the black hairclip he had given her.

Normally, it would be quite jarring to see a black hairclip in golden hair, but Mila had cleverly twisted a part of her hair into a bun and tied it with a black lace ribbon that made the black hairclip less jarring. But as the hairclip was hidden by the ribbon, it was rather hard to notice. Yin Qie Zi hadn’t noticed Mila was wearing his hairclip until now because of this… Of course, the fact that he was heedless of outer appearances and rather slow to notice changes were probably a few of the reasons he hadn’t noticed until now.

“Black doesn’t suit you. Why don’t you return that hairclip to me? I’ll buy a different one for you.”

Mila blinked and then flatly rejected him. “No! This hairclip is mine! Who would take back a present like this?”

Yin Qie Zi stared at Mila in surprise; he never thought she would refuse. Ever since he first met her, Mila had never out-right refused anything.

“Yin Qie Zi, why are you so attached to black?”

When he heard Mila’s question, Yin Qie Zi blurted out the answer automatically. “Because my―” hair color was originally black. He quickly clamped his mouth shut upon realizing what he was going to say, managing to avoid revealing his secret.

He quickly stole a glance at Fenny out the corner of his eyes and noticed that she had deliberately hid herself in the shadows some seven or eight steps away. Despite this, Yin Qie Zi was sure she could see the two of them clear as day.

Fenny was Yehv’s wife. Not only had Yehv participated in the war, he was also West’s subordinate. Could he afford to take this risk right now? Wait! Yin Qie Zi paused in shock, what risk had he just been thinking about? H-had he actually wanted to let Mila see his true hair color?

Mila gazed up at him and asked somewhat disappointedly, “You can’t tell me?”

Upon seeing Mila’s disappointed look, Yin Qie Zi didn’t know what came over him, but he bent down towards her ear and said without thinking, “Actually, my real hair color isn’t silvery-purple… Don’t tell anyone else! Including Owen!”

Mila sat stunned when she heard Yin Qie Zi’s answer. She then quickly figured out what his true hair color was and understood why he had been so adamant about how the black hairclip was not a defective product.

The Leaf Tribe was a brightly-colored tribe. Black probably wasn’t a color the tribe liked or preferred.

Mila quietly made a sound of agreement. She felt a bit sorry for Yin Qie Zi, but she also felt a glimmer of happiness as he had been willing to confide a secret that nobody else knew to her.

“Let’s go. I think Owen is about finished chatting with the prince. If he still hasn’t come out, we should just leave first without waiting any longer for him. He can walk home by himself!”

Mila chuckled and replied, “Haha. He’ll be lost without Yehv to guide him.”

“Even if he is an idiot, he should at least know how to ask for directions, right?”

“Pfft. You might be right.”

Yin Qie Zi pushed Mila’s wheelchair back to the auction house at a slow pace, occasionally exchanging a few words with her. Their conversations were mostly spirit binder related, and they soon started discussing the medicine Jin Qi Er had ordered. Fenny, who was walking behind them, rolled her eyes in exasperation at their conversation and grumbled to herself about how the two of them were not the least bit romantic. She didn’t curse at Mila’s unromantic behavior as much, after all it was all that Yin Qie Zi’s fault anyways. Even when compared to the forty-year-old Yehv, Yin Qie Zi’s lack of romanticism was about a hundred times worse! Fenny sighed to herself. But if speaking of his true age, wouldn’t Yin Qie Zi be much older than Yehv?

When the three of them arrived at the door of the auction house, quite a number of people were already walking out and leaving one after another on their carriages. It seemed the auction was about to end. Fenny asked their coachman and confirmed that Owen still hadn’t come out yet. She walked back to Mila and Yin Qie Zi and discussed the matter with them. They decided to wait for a little longer in the end so the coachman wouldn’t have to come back and pick up Owen… Thinking about it, Owen would never ask for directions and walk home by himself.

“Isn’t this Miss Mila?” Five young nobles approached the three of them. Mila had been conversing with Yin Qie Zi and her smile froze when she heard her name mentioned. She turned around to face the group of nobles and lifted her lips in another smile, but it was only a superficial smile done out of courtesy.

“Long time no see.”

While Mila chatted politely with the young noble who had spoken, Yin Qie Zi glanced over the rest of the group. What he first noticed were their clothes; this group of nobles were all dressed in gorgeous outfits that were no less extravagant than his. It seemed like Owen hadn’t lied to him; he truly wasn’t the only one who had dressed extravagantly for the auction.

Yin Qie Zi, however, wasn’t the least bit happy at this discovery. The group of nobles before him looked like a frivolous bunch, though not all of them were the frivolous type. But the atmosphere they exuded as a group marked them as people Yin Qie Zi would avoid with a wide berth on a normal day. It really wasn’t a joyful thing for him to discover that he was dressed the same way as the people he avoided like the plague.

Mila also didn’t seem especially happy to have come across this group of nobles. Although she had a smile on her face, Yin Qie Zi could tell that it wasn’t a true happy smile. Mila’s smile should be brighter than this. If she was truly happy, her eyes would turn up slightly. Even if her lips did not turn up, he should be able to see a clear smile in her green eyes.

“And who is this gentleman beside you?” One of the nobles opened his mouth and asked.

Yin Qie Zi glanced indifferently at him. Although the noble who had spoken was one of the less annoying ones in the group, it didn’t mean Yin Qie Zi would smile at him.

“Gawain, this is Yin Qie Zi. Yin Qie Zi, this is Gawain. He’s a friend of Owen’s from the military.”

For the sake of being polite, Mila should have introduced the rest of the nobles as well, but she decided to skip their introductions. Firstly because she was worried that Yin Qie Zi disliked associating with strangers. Secondly, she was slightly irritated that the group had interrupted her conversation with Yin Qie Zi. Due to her irritation, she had decided to not waste any time on further introductions. In any case, she wasn’t familiar with any of the other nobles. If she hadn’t noticed Gawain, she would’ve secretly motioned at Fenny to make some sort of excuse and send them away.

“Yin Qie Zi?” With a cheerful smile, Gawain said unaffectedly, “I truly must be ignorant. May I ask which family you are from?”

Gawain’s attitude was especially friendly and likeable. It wouldn’t be appropriate if Yin Qie Zi frowned at him too much, so he replied, “I’m not one of the nobility. I’m merely a commoner.”

Gawain was only slightly surprised when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s reply, but the nobles behind him reacted much more severely. They widened their eyes and frowned as they looked over Yin Qie Zi, their scrutinizing gazes blatantly rude.

Mila said inwardly to herself: Yin Qie Zi isn’t a normal person. He’s of a much higher status than nobles. Nobles can be found everywhere, but there is only one Flower even when you add the continents of Xi Zong and Xia Sha together!

Although the other nobles were frowning at Yin Qie Zi, Gawain’s expression contained much more curiosity than anything else. His eyes moved over Yin Qie Zi’s outfit; his expression both curious and questioning.

“Owen gave me this outfit as a present,” Yin Qie Zi replied simply to the other’s silent questions.

A smile broke out on Gawain’s face at Yin Qie Zi’s answer. “Owen gave you clothes as a present? He doesn’t even buy his own clothes, but this outfit really does suit you very well!”

Gawain’s tone of voice was very friendly, but Yin Qie Zi couldn’t help but feel something was off when he heard that Owen’s extravagant present suited him. He quickly said, “I’ll go and see if Owen is finished with his conversation. He’s too slow!”

Mila nodded in response.

Yin Qie Zi turned around and left. Only when he had taken a few steps did he come to a sudden realization: how could he have left Mila alone with a group of men?

But when he turned around, he saw Fenny standing beside Mila. Only then did he suddenly remember that Mila had Fenny, who was extremely skilled at martial arts. What was there for him to worry about… No, even if Fenny weren’t there, why would he be worried? In fact, he was the most dangerous person around Mila!

Yin Qie Zi found his pointless worrying hilarious, but after laughing at himself, a frown appeared on his face… Perhaps he was worried because he wanted to kill Mila personally and feared that she would die at the hands of someone else?

He shook his head and stopped his imagination from running wild. Instead, he focused on looking for Owen.

“Yin Qie Zi? Why are you here alone?”

Yin Qie Zi turned his head and saw Owen running towards him. When Owen came up to him, he immediately said snappily, “I came to see if you’re finished with your conversation. You’re too slow!”

Having been yelled at the minute he came over, Owen scratched his nose sheepishly. “I thought you guys already went home.”

“Fenny had suggested that we go stargazing nearby while waiting for you.”

“Stargazing?” Owen almost wanted to rip off his ears and give them a cleaning. He most certainly heard Yin Qie Zi wrong. Not to mention stargazing, Yin Qie Zi wouldn’t even spare a glance at a naked woman if she walked past him. And now the same Yin Qie Zi was telling him that he had willingly agreed to go stargazing?

“You’ve been really strange lately…”

Yin Qie Zi’s heart skipped a beat when he heard Owen’s words. Could he have been acting too lively recently and somehow stirred Owen’s suspicious?

“I knew you were cold on the outside, but warm on the inside. My hard work this year finally paid off!”

Owen reached up and pretended to wipe tears from his eyes. Though he was just pretending, he suddenly felt a true urge to cry. He had been smiling and dealing with Yin Qie Zi’s cold indifference for a whole year now. After such great effort, the cold atmosphere around Yin Qie Zi was finally starting to warm up. How could he not cry at such a moving development?

Yin Qie Zi rolled his eyes at Owen, all of the tension draining out of him. The only thing that remained was the urge to punch Owen a few times. Owen seemed to have already noticed this as he had silently taken two steps sideways, just enough so that Yin Qie Zi’s fist wouldn’t reach him.

Yin Qie Zi lifted an eyebrow at Owen’s movements, but didn’t step up to punch him. Instead he turned around and left the auction house.

Owen looked at Yin Qie Zi’s back in surprise, but quickly followed after the other. At that moment, Yin Qie Zi turned around abruptly, scaring Owen so much that he jumped to the side, his arms crossed before his chest as if he was trying to ward off an incoming punch.

“Ha!” Yin Qie Zi laughed out loud. It was only a laugh, but it was enough to astonish Owen. “Let’s go. Mila’s waiting for us.”

Owen clicked his tongue and asked, “How come Mila didn’t come with you? If she knew she’d missed the chance to hear you laugh, she’d probably be so frustrated that she’d lose her appetite. It’s a shame since her appetite has been great recently.”

At Owen’s words, Yin Qie Zi retracted his smile and explained simply, “We came across someone named Gawain earlier. He’s chatting with Mila at the moment.”

“Gawain?” Owen hesitated for a bit, but asked, “He didn’t say anything strange to you, right?”

“What could he say?” Yin Qie Zi felt something was strange. He’d been under the impression that Gawain and Owen were rather good friends. Looking at it now, perhaps that wasn’t the case?

“Nothing especially…” Owen said somewhat reluctantly, “It’s just that he’s slightly interested in Mila, but Mila doesn’t like him. So I thought he would… Uh…”

“So you really plan on matching me up with your sister?” Yin Qie Zi asked calmly. “I’m merely a commoner. That’s not a very suitable status for her, right? Your father would certainly be against this.”

“He wouldn’t!” Owen quickly responded, “If my father was opposed to this, then he wouldn’t have tested you that time! He would’ve gotten rid of you right off the bat… Ah!”

At that moment, Owen paused and stared at Yin Qie Zi. He exclaimed, “You already know Mila’s interested in you?”

“Exactly how dense have you made me out to be?” Yin Qie Zi continued irritably, “These few days, I’m the one who has been pushing her wheelchair around. If you aren’t trying to match me up with her, then are you trying to turn me into another of hers?”

Owen scratched his nose and mumbled, “There’s a chance that could happen.”

Yin Qie Zi glared at him and couldn’t resist saying, “I simply don’t understand when Mila started having an interest in me. I remember that when I first met her, you were already trying to set us up, but she didn’t even know me back then.”

“Who said she didn’t know you?” Owen then explained matter-of-factly, “Mila has been listening to me talk about you every day!”

“Is that so? I don’t remember you coming to find me for a chat every day though.” With a semblance of a smile, Yin Qie Zi added, “If you had done that, then I would’ve already poisoned you with some medicine. Would you still be able to talk to Mila and tell her things about me every day then?”

Owen couldn’t resist covering his mouth with a hand when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s reply. He looked as if he was truly worried that Yin Qie Zi would toss poison at him any moment, but the only thing Yin Qie Zi tossed in his direction was a glare.

“In short, she’s more knowledgeable about you than I am.” Owen opened his mouth and explained for his sister. “You know Mila can’t go out of the house, but she really wanted to know what you looked like, so she had sent Fenny to your store secretly to get a glance at your face and make it into an oil painting. That painting is still hanging in her room right now. She has drawn many portraits of you as well. Even though she has never seen you personally, her drawings are surprisingly accurate… Oh, you can’t tell Mila I’ve told you all this. Otherwise, she would get Fenny to kill me.”

“Are you that scared of Fenny?” Yin Qie Zi teased. “You can’t beat her in a fight?”

Owen hesitated for a moment, but replied honestly, “Exactly, I can’t beat her! Fenny isn’t a normal person. Don’t underestimate her. She had been personally taught by Yehv in martial arts. I heard she had started training when she was only two years old.”

Rather than being surprised by the fact that Fenny had started training when she was two, Yin Qie Zi was more shocked at something else. “Yehv raised Fenny?”

“Yes!” Owen replied somewhat enviously. “He found her, raised her, taught her, and then finally took her as his wife. Ah, how envious!”

“…”

When the two of them arrived at the door of the auction house, Owen quickly went over and said hello to Gawain. Contrary to Yin Qie Zi’s previous thoughts, the two of them were rather close to each other.

More people were leaving the auction now than before; their surroundings were gradually becoming noisier. Using being tired as an excuse, Mila retired to the carriage first. Due to the crowd, Yin Qie Zi wasn’t the one who lifted her into her seat.

Yin Qie Zi stood beside Owen for a while, but Owen and Gawain were talking about military matters that he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in. The other nobles in the group were once again staring at him with rude gazes. It all irritated him, so he left for the carriage as well, without even the energy or the mood to leave behind a goodbye.

Owen was already used to this, but the others frowned at his sudden departure. Some started cursing at him.

“Aren’t you being a little too condescending here? Who the hell do you think you are?”

“Come out of the carriage, you coward!”

“If you have the guts, why don’t we duel?”

Owen quickly cut in, “Wait, his personality is just like this. Don’t―”

Gawain smiled and interjected, “There’s no harm in having a duel. Owen, I want to have a match with Yin Qie Zi as well!”

Owen looked somewhat helplessly at Gawain. This friend of his was rather easygoing and knew how to conduct himself appropriately, but he had a very ambitious heart. If Gawain truly liked Mila, then Owen would probably help him pursue her. Unfortunately, Owen wasn’t sure that Gawain liked Mila enough to overlook her disability. What Gawain was most attracted to was probably Mila’s status and privileges.

The minute Gawain joined in, the other became louder in their taunts. They were now even more determined to make Yin Qie Zi come out of the carriage for a duel.

Bang!

The carriage door had been forcefully slammed open. Yin Qie Zi sat inside the carriage and looked down at the group of nobles with his blood-red eyes. The previously noisy nobles instinctively quieted down. Some even lowered their heads to avoid Yin Qie Zi’s gaze, afraid to look into that pair of chilling eyes.

Yin Qie Zi bent his waist and leapt down from the carriage. He then said simply, “Owen, I’m borrowing your sword.”

Owen was shocked. He had wanted to stop them from fighting, but after thinking a bit, Yin Qie Zi probably wouldn’t lose due to his skilled martial arts. Even if he didn’t manage to defeat Gawain, he probably wouldn’t back out of the duel in shame.

Moreover, the square outside the auction house was filled with nobles. The noise Gawain’s friends made earlier had successfully stopped many people in their tracks to watch the commotion. If Yin Qie Zi managed to win the duel, then he would receive a reputation for being good at fighting. In Zhan Yan, that sort of reputation was very important.

Despite this, Mila and Owen hadn’t thought Yin Qie Zi would make a good potential suitor because he was strong. Rather, they hadn’t even known he was skilled at fighting in the beginning. But it would still be a good thing if Yin Qie Zi could win this duel and obtain a good reputation.

Owen offered up his sword and Yin Qie Zi accepted it. Gawain, who had been standing opposite of them, immediately became on guard. He could tell if someone was good with a sword just by looking at the way they held their weapon. Yin Qie Zi appeared very weak and thin, but he held his sword naturally. He was obviously very used to wielding a sword. How could a person like him not be skilled at fighting?

Gawain was slightly bewildered. Although he first pretended to not know Yin Qie Zi, he had actually investigated the other beforehand and knew that Yin Qie Zi worked as a spirit binder. Everyone knew spirit binders weren’t good at fighting. This was because they spent a long time indoors studying spirit medicines and working with special spirits, causing their bodies to become weak and easily susceptible to disease.

Even if Mila knew her beloved Yin Qie Zi’s occupation didn’t suit fighting, she wouldn’t happily let him be beaten by someone, right? Gawain had planned to beat Yin Qie Zi in an easy duel, but now he was becoming apprehensive. At the side, Owen’s eyes brightened in anticipation, looking every inch like a hot-blooded and competitive young man who was waiting to see an exciting duel. Mila even stuck her head out of the carriage, an exhilarated expression on her face.

“Come. Let’s duel.” Yin Qie Zi swiftly pulled his sword out of its sheath. He then added simply, “I still have to hurry home and prepare a few materials for spirit binding.”

As matters stood, Gawain knew he couldn’t back out of the duel. Otherwise he would become a laughingstock. He retracted his smile, took two steps forward, and pulled out his own sword.

The crowd slowly backed away from them, clearing a circle around Yin Qie Zi and Gawain that allowed them enough room to duel.

Zhan Yan was a country that thrived on battle; most of the younger population usually carried around weapons. An impromptu duel on the streets was a rather common sight, so the crowd on the square wasn’t shocked at the sudden duel. Rather, they crowded around the duelers in high spirits and began to speculate at their identities and reason for the duel.

At that moment, Fenny lifted Mila off of the carriage. As she was close to the dueling grounds, she immediately drew the crowd’s attention. Everyone quickly guessed that she was Mila of the Paladin family from the noticeable fact that she was sitting in a wheelchair and her distinctive features. Perhaps she was the reason for the duel.

There wasn’t a judge for the duel. When both parties pulled out their swords, the duel had theoretically already begun. But at the moment, both duelers stood stock still in their spots. Despite this, there wasn’t a single noise of complaint among the crowd. Instead they felt even more excited for the impending battle. From the long experience of watching duels, the crowd knew the ones who were more prudent with their attacks were more skilled fighters. This time, both of the duelers looked to be skilled. A duel between skilled fighters was definitely worth seeing.

Gawain’s entire person was under a state of alert. He stared fixedly at Yin Qie Zi, not willing to miss the other’s every single move.

Yin Qie Zi merely looked at Gawain’s sword. It was a simple sword without any unnecessary decorations. Despite being simple, there wasn’t a single stain or mark on the shiny, silver blade. It was a good sword and its owner obviously cherished it.

Usually, Yin Qie Zi would only make the first move two out ten battles, but this duel belonged to those rare times when he would make the first move. He quickly strode towards Gawain and attacked straightforwardly with his sword.

Gawain brandished his weapon, planning to strike Yin Qie Zi’s sword aside. Unexpectedly, Yin Qie Zi nimbly flexed his wrist and changed the direction of his sword midway through the attack. His sword sped past Gawain’s block and aimed straight at the noble’s throat. Caught unprepared, Gawain was forced to back away.

Although Gawain backed away, Yin Qie Zi quickly stepped up to him again. Yin Qie Zi’s series of attacks were fast and fierce, forcing Gawain backwards step by step. Gawain had no opportunity to counterattack. If he stopped for just a step, Yin Qie Zi’s sword would pierce right through his body.

Gawain continued to move backwards, but the crowd was too slow to react. By the time they remembered to move aside, Gawain had already slammed into an onlooker, raising a round of alarmed shouts from the crowd.

Yin Qie Zi didn’t take advantage of the situation to pursue Gawain and attack. In truth, if he had waved his sword just a bit closer towards Gawain earlier, he would have won the duel. For some unknown reason, when he saw Gawain slam against the crowd, he lowered his sword and did not attack. Instead he turned around and walked to the middle of clearing. He stood there quietly, as if waiting for Gawain to return and continue the duel.

By then, Gawain’s expression had turned extremely ugly. He hadn’t anticipated that Yin Qie Zi was skilled at successive rapid attacks. But this was a duel, how could he use “he hadn’t anticipated the other’s attack” as an excuse for his current losing state? The disparity between their strength was displayed for all to see. Even if Gawain didn’t want to admit it, he knew he wasn’t a worthy opponent for Yin Qie Zi.

On the other hand, Yin Qie Zi was rather satisfied at how his attacks had turned out. He typically didn’t use this type of rapid, fierce attacks to fight opponents.

Generally, his attacks were fast, but they weren’t strong. The main focus of those kind of attacks was to aim quickly and keenly at the weak spots on the body, such as the throat or the heart. But after battling with Cas previously, he found that the other’s style of swift and violent attacks could easily decide the results of a battle. If it was a short battle, then Cas’ style of fighting was very efficient at obtaining wins.

Gawain straightened, his face completely ashen. He had deliberately provoked Yin Qie Zi himself, but got beaten completely. He knew his reputation was probably already ruined by the results of this duel…

“I’ll be your partner this time.”

A new voice cut in and spoke. Two alarmed shouts of “Teacher” and “Uncle” immediately followed.

Everybody froze and looked on in shock as a man walked out of the crowd. He was dressed in a neat and simple military uniform. His back was straight and tall; his whole posture exuded a natural and awe-inspiring sense of authority. It was the commander of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment, Chris!

Gawain stared nervously at his uncle. Chris, on the other hand, only gave a cursory glance at his nephew and said nothing. He knew how strong his nephew was; Gawain was one of the best fighters among his generation and was only slightly weaker than Owen. In fact, there was only a difference of two wins between Gawain and Owen. Because of this, Chris didn’t think his nephew performed poorly in the duel. His opponent was simply too strong!

Chris frowned as he looked at Yin Qie Zi. He’d thought the other was only a spirit binder who at most knew some martial arts. He never knew Yin Qie Zi was this strong!

How could a young man like Yin Qie Zi possess such astounding strength? Chris had seen strong young fighters before. The strongest he had ever come across was Prince Edward’s personal guard. But that guard was at least thirty years old, the one in front of him right now… Calling him a teenager would even be passable!

Twenty years old. Chris remembered Owen had once told him Yin Qie Zi’s age. The spirit binder wasn’t a boy, but a young man. The strength he possessed at twenty years old was simply too shocking!

“Since when could you switch in someone new during a duel?” Yin Qie Zi asked indifferently.

Chris knew his cutting in didn’t conform to the rules of a duel, but he wasn’t willing to give up the opportunity to battle a strong opponent. He smiled and said, “This isn’t a duel. I’m merely seeking battle advice.”

The crowd around them gasped when they heard Chris’ response. The grand commander of the Xialan Regiment had actually said he was seeking advice from a young man! How could that not be shocking?

“Teacher Chris!” Mila hurriedly shouted, “Don’t make things difficult for Yin Qie Zi! How could he win against you?”

Chris smiled faintly and replied, “You don’t need to worry. We don’t know for sure that he won’t defeat me.”

The crowd felt Chris was only being modest by using the words “don’t know for sure.” In reality, Chris really did think that way. Yin Qie Zi might just be able to defeat him!

“Teacher!” Mila was so worried that tears were threatening to fall from her eyes, but Chris remained unmoved. He continued walking towards the center of the circular clearing, stopping only when he was about three steps away from Yin Qie Zi.

Yin Qie Zi frowned. He felt he had been too hasty this time. He shouldn’t have accepted the duel as an opportunity to test his new fighting style. It seemed like he had roused Chris’ suspicions. Fortunately, Chris didn’t seem to have recognized him.

On second thought, his past self had no knowledge of martial arts and relied completely on the power to manipulate vines. Because of this, Chris shouldn’t be able to link the skilled fighting style he exhibited in the duel to Gong Hua. Chris might even be misled by the fact that he was skilled at fighting. At that thought, Yin Qie Zi relaxed.

Chris pulled out his sword, seriously intending to battle with Yin Qie Zi. Seeing this, Mila rolled her wheelchair in front of Yin Qie Zi and spread her arms open protectively.

Fenny and Owen immediately ran up to Mila’s side. Owen said frantically, “Teacher, isn’t this inappropriate? Yin Qie Zi is currently dueling with Gawain!”

Upon hearing Owen, Gawain felt an urge to jab his sword down his friend’s throat. He finally managed to escape from a narrow death and it also seemed like he could protect his reputation. The gossip that was going to spread everywhere in the city tomorrow would definitely be about Commander Chris challenging Yin Qie Zi to a battle. There wouldn’t even be a hint of his name in those news. But if the battle between his uncle and Yin Qie Zi never happened, then it meant he would have to continue the duel…

“What’s inappropriate?” Chris responded without a care, “There’s no harm in having their duel another day. Why don’t they just yield this match to me?”

Owen was speechless. Duels were supposed to be serious affairs. They could even be called matters of life and death. However, most of the recent duels in the city weren’t life-threatening battles. Even though they were called duels, it would be more accurate to say they were opportunities to compare battle notes. In any case, neither Gawain nor Yin Qie Zi were important people in the city. Their duel wasn’t such a great affair that they couldn’t afford to change the date.

Yin Qie Zi looked at the girl with a head of golden hair who had her arms spread wide in front of him. He found the situation quite funny. An unarmed and defenseless girl sitting on a wheelchair wanted to protect him? His opponent was also the well-known and imposing commander of a spiritmancer regiment? This was absolutely… What? Ridiculous? A gathering of ill-informed people?

Looking at Mila’s back, however, Yin Qie Zi was unable to say those words out loud.

“Owen, step aside,” Chris ordered simply.

Owen jumped in fright, but he didn’t dare disobey his teacher’s command. He hesitated for a moment, but in the end resigned to his fate and moved aside. In any case, Teacher wouldn’t kill Yin Qie Zi, right? Owen thought.

Even though Owen had stepped away, Mila wasn’t willing to budge an inch. Fenny moved up to push her wheelchair, but Mila stopped her in her tracks with a look, not allowing Fenny to even touch her wheelchair.

The current situation was extremely similar to the one from the past… Why was it that the weakest ones were always the people who refused to back down the most?

Yin Qie Zi reached out and gave Mila’s wheelchair a push, the sudden movement startling her greatly. She looked back and Yin Qie Zi said to her, “Mila, go to the side. It’s too dangerous here for you.”

“But―” Mila still wanted to put a stop to this duel.

“It’s all right.” Yin Qie Zi cut in. He smiled and reassured her, “We’ll only be comparing notes on our battle styles. We’ll suffer minor injuries at most. There’s no need to worry.”

Upon seeing Yin Qie Zi’s smile and listening to his gentle, comforting words, Mila ended up in a daze. Taking advantage of her momentary daze, Yin Qie Zi pushed her wheelchair to the side and then offered the handlebars to Fenny.

“Yin Qie Zi!” Mila shouted. Yin Qie Zi lifted his eyes and looked at her. At that instant, his red eyes were no longer the blood-red of before; instead they appeared similar to two blazing fires. Mila opened her mouth, but faced with the expression in his eyes, she found she couldn’t say any dissuading words to him. She only reminded gently, “Be careful.”

Yin Qie Zi smiled at her and turned around. He clenched his hand around his sword and called out to Chris, “Then please, I look forward to learning from you.”

Chris pulled out his sword. At that moment, the duel officially began. The tension among the crowd had risen so much that they felt as if their hearts were going to leap out of their chests. But then they remembered that skilled fighters only attacked after much waiting and deliberation. Both Commander Chris and Yin Qie Zi were skilled fighters, exactly how long would they have to wait for one of them to make a move this time?

Just when the crowd was mentally preparing themselves for a long wait, Yin Qie Zi made the first move. There was no harm done whether he wins or loses, he might as well treat Chris as an opponent to practice his new fighting style on.

Without the burden of winning or losing, Yin Qie Zi’s attacks became fiercer. He held back on none of his blows and aimed directly for the throat. It was the same move he had used on Gawain, but this time, it wasn’t as effective. Chris didn’t raise his sword frantically like Gawain to protect against the blow. He merely shifted a step and avoided Yin Qie Zi’s attack.

Yin Qie Zi turned his wrist and changed the direction of his sword, the tip now aimed at the other’s heart. At this, Chris finally brandished his sword. Their weapons clashed together, split apart, and changed directions. They waved their swords, looking for an opening to attack, only to clash again as their respective blows were blocked by each other.

Faced with an opponent like Chris, Yin Qie Zi found that the fighting style he had stolen from Cas proved to be ineffective. Although they were using the same fighting style, he simply wasn’t as strong as Cas. His own quick and violent attacks could not shake Chris and make him lose control. Rather, Yin Qie Zi was overexerting himself with this new fighting style. Several times, he switched tactics too late and nearly got stabbed by Chris.

Yin Qie Zi backed away while continuing to block Chris’ attacks. Although it looked like he was retreating in defeat, he was actually slowly adjusting his fighting style to the one that truly belonged to him: attacking quickly while analyzing the structure of his opponent’s weapon and breaking the chains that held it together. Unfortunately, he quickly found out Chris’ sword was made of materials that was difficult to unchain… But difficult didn’t mean impossible!

He continued to analyze the components of Chris’ sword and proceeded to remove the chains that linked the spirits together one by one. Now he only needed to strike the sword once!

Yin Qie Zi kept his eyes on the spot where he had started the chain-breaking process. After parrying a few times, he finally saw an opening to attack. Like a crafty snake, his sword shot straight at the weak spot he had created on Chris’ sword. Just when he was about to strike the blade, he lost his balance. He immediately stumbled and his attack ended up being deflected by Chris. Yin Qie Zi quickly regained his balance and brandished his sword to block Chris’ incoming attack, preventing his chest from being stabbed.

At that moment, Chris stopped attacking. He was slightly worried about his sword. Just now, he felt a disturbance in the spirits of his sword. Plus, it seemed like Yin Qie Zi had been deliberately hunting for a spot to strike on his sword earlier… All of this indicated that Yin Qie Zi had been planning to shatter his sword after breaking the chains that held it together. But how was that possible?

Seeing that Chris was motionless, Yin Qie Zi also lowered his weapon. He glanced down at his foot; there was an obvious pit on the ground. The pit was perfectly circular and exhibited irregular fluctuations now and then. It obviously hadn’t been made by natural means. It was the work of chain-breaking!

Yin Qie Zi was surprised at this discovery. It was rare to come across a spiritmancer who could break chains while enduring his rapid attacks. Chris certainly was strong!

“You actually used chain-breaking on my sword?” Chris was equally shocked. He had been bestowed this sword by His Majesty the King when he had become the commander of the Xialan Regiment. It was made from the highest quality materials that was impossible to use chain-breaking on. If a professional spirit binder were to sit down and break the chains one by one, then it might be possible. But it was definitely impossible in an intense battle like this!

Yin Qie Zi smiled and replied, “I am a spirit binder.”

Chris frowned at his reply. It seemed like he needed to have a spirit binder examine his sword after this duel. Suddenly, Yin Qie Zi brandished his sword. Chris immediately raised his own to block. When their swords struck together, an abnormal crack resounded across the square. Chris’ sword split into two; the top half of the sword was sent flying by the blow and landed with a heavy clang just inside the auction house’s door. Only the tail of the broken blade could be seen, still trembling from the force of the blow.

Chris’ expression immediately darkened. When the crowd saw who was standing near the broken blade, they started in fright. It was Prince Edward!

Edward stared at the broken half of the sword with wide eyes. An icy feeling of fear was spreading inside his heart. He turned around with the plan to yell at the person who had been so careless, but to his surprise, he saw Chris holding onto the other half of the sword. Even though he was a prince, Chris wasn’t someone he could curse at without thinking. Edward could only swallow the curses he had been about to fling.

Although everyone was worried that the prince had almost been struck by the wayward blade, Yin Qie Zi actually hadn’t been aiming at the prince. Even though the blade had struck at a spot close to the prince, it was even closer to where Cas was standing. It had only been an arm’s distance away from striking Cas.

Seems like my wound has mostly healed! Yin Qie Zi was very satisfied at the results. He couldn’t resist a glance at Cas and saw a flash of a smile gracing the assassin’s face, but the smile was gone instantaneously. Yin Qie Zi had no way of knowing the meaning of that smile.

Yet at that moment, both of them came to a realization. With both of their fast fighting styles, if they truly fought against each other, there would no room for mercy. It would be a fight to the death!

In order to avoid rousing suspicions, the two of them retracted their gazes. Upon turning his head away, Yin Qie Zi immediately noticed the unpleasant expression on Edward’s face. There was an equally unpleasant expression on Jin Qi Er’s face, who was standing beside the prince. Chris left quickly after picking up the broken part of his sword resentfully. And there was an awkward expression on Owen’s face… Yin Qie Zi finally started questioning whether he had gone overboard with the last attack.

He then looked down and noticed that Mila had rolled her wheelchair over. A dazzling smile was on her face, her eyes shining with delight. Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt he hadn’t gone overboard at all. The one who wanted to duel with him was Chris. Who could Chris blame but himself for having his sword broken?

“We got delayed a bit. Why don’t you give me the special spirits you’ve bought right now?” Yin Qie Zi looked at Jin Qi Er’s unpleasant expression and decided to not explain the situation. It was a fact that he hadn’t abided by his word to return home early and prepare the materials he needed. There wasn’t much to explain anyways.

While Jin Qi Er’s expression was unpleasant, he didn’t dare act hostile towards Yin Qie Zi. He only ordered his subordinate to hand the special spirits to the spirit binder. He then added uneasily, “Will you really be able to make the medicine in two weeks?”

Yin Qie Zi lowered his head and counted the number of spirits he had been given. After making sure none was missing, he responded, “Yes, you’ll have it in two weeks.”

Jin Qie Zi nodded. He still looked a bit apprehensive, but he was more hopeful than worried.

“I can’t believe he broke Commander Chris’ sword in half,” Edward said sharply from the side. “Owen, are you sure he’s a spirit binder?”

“Don’t ask me. I don’t know how strong he is exactly.” Owen’s voice sounded a bit exasperated. He didn’t forget to glare at Yin Qie Zi a few times.

Mila quickly said, “You can’t blame Yin Qie Zi for this! It was Uncle Chris who insisted on having a fight with him!”

“I know!” Owen mumbled, “You haven’t even married him, yet you’re already protecting your husband. What will happen when you actually marry him?”

Mila didn’t understand what Owen was talking about at first. When she finally reacted, her expression did a flip. She had the urge to punch Owen a few times. Secretly, she snuck a few glances at Yin Qie Zi. When she saw that Yin Qie Zi hadn’t reacted, she thought he hadn’t heard Owen and felt relieved.

“Left Eye is also a skilled fighter. Do we want to see who’s stronger between these two?”

Edward looked at Yin Qie Zi and then at Cas. Despite his taunt, he was very confident in Cas’ skills. He didn’t believe Cas would lose to Yin Qie Zi.

Mila yelled anxiously, “No more fighting! Yin Qie Zi is a spirit binder, not a spiritmancer! Don’t bully him anymore!”

He’s a fellow who’s capable of breaking a spiritmancer regiment commander’s sword! Exactly who is bullying whom here? Owen and Edward were both speechless.

“Let’s go home! If Owen is unwilling to leave, then he can walk home.”

Mila picked up Yin Qie Zi’s hand and forcefully rolled her wheelchair in the carriage’s direction. Seeing this, Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist a chuckle. He walked behind Mila and helped her push her wheelchair towards the carriage. While lifting her into her seat, he said, “Yes, let’s leave first. Owen can go home by himself.”

“…Hey, wait for me!”

 

Next: Chapter 7: Nightclaw…The Death He Brought and Left Behind
Previous: Chapter 5: To Send Out…Weapons or Medicine?
Return: Main Page

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Translator: Nannyn
Proofreaders: dinoj, Rose

The word used here actually means god-brother (乾哥哥).

Chapter 5: To Send Out…Weapons or Medicine?

On October 1, 2015, Posted by , In Gong Hua, tagged in ,, , With 5 Comments

Since I’m not given a choice, I’ll become the king’s dog, but I don’t need any remunerations.
I only need two things.
One: I will be allowed to continue to accept jobs from the guild.
Two: I will be allowed to use the king’s name to gather information.
If I use an entire country’s power to search for you, I should at least be able to find out where you are, right?
Gong Hua…

―Cas

 

“Teacher, this is Yin Qie Zi.” Owen hurriedly went forward and introduced them to each other. “Yin Qie Zi, this is my teacher Zhan ∙ Chris ∙ Wollier.”

Owen was a little bit anxious after the introductions. Yin Qie Zi had a cold personality and disliked strangers. He was afraid Yin Qie Zi would be unhappy that he had brought a stranger into their box. But Chris was his teacher, he was obligated to greet him. He only hoped that even if Yin Qie Zi was unhappy, he wouldn’t stare at Chris with a cold expression on his face.

Contrary to Owen’s expectations, Yin Qie Zi stood up and said politely, “This is the first time we’ve met. Hello.”

Chris merely nodded in response. He walked up to Mila and a rare smile came over his serious face.

Mila greeted him first, “Uncle Chris! Long time no see. Really, it’s just so like you to not even attend our birthday banquet! Not many people were invited in the first place.”

Chris smiled and replied, “West usually doesn’t pay attention to people, but if I were to go, he would certainly come over and greet me. He’d finally managed to pull out some time and spend it together with you, I’d rather not waste those minutes.”

Mila pouted and protested, “Really! I wouldn’t mind if you took some of our time and came over to say hello!”

At that moment, Owen walked up to Yin Qie Zi and whispered in his ear, “Teacher is pretty indifferent to people. He’s not deliberately ignoring you. Don’t take it to heart!”

Yin Qie Zi didn’t mind at all. He knew what Chris was like. Twenty years ago, Chris had barely spoken a word to him… In retrospect, they had probably never spoken to each other at all.

“Well, have you looked at the Leaf’s listing yet?”

Yin Qie Zi paused and asked back, “Listing?”

“The auction’s catalog has information on the goods that are being sold. Let’s see.” Owen glanced around and exclaimed, “There, it’s on the table!”

Owen picked up the catalog and flipped through it. He quickly found the page he was looking for. He read out loud, “Leaf. Bright, white skin. Pleasant features. Healthy body with no defects. Blue hair. Height is 175 centimeters… That tall? Don’t tell me the Leaf really is male?”

Yin Qie Zi rolled his eyes at Owen and responded, “Not necessarily. Leaves are quite similar in height as there aren’t any sex-related differences between males and females. Even if they stood in front of you, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell which one is male or female.”

“So that’s how it is!” Owen understood and continued reading, “Has spirit charmer abilities. Gentle, won’t attack without reason… They’ve written this much, but there’s nothing on the Leaf’s sex.”

Before Yin Qie Zi could reply, Mila cut in, “What are you worried about? The Leaf isn’t for you in any case.”

Owen muttered, “How does that have nothing to do with me? The Leaf is going to live at our house, right? At the minimum, I want a visually pleasing… Alright, don’t glare at me. The Leaf is definitely male. Happy?”

“You are planning on buying the Leaf?” Chris asked suddenly.

Mila and Owen both turned to look at Chris. Owen nodded and said yes, he then asked curiously, “Teacher, what did you come here to buy? Weapons?”

“The Leaf.”

Owen was shocked upon hearing that answer. He hadn’t expected Chris to be after the Leaf as well. “Teacher, you’re planning to buy the Leaf too? What do you plan on doing with the Leaf, make them into a spirit charmer?”

Chris thought for a bit and replied, “There’s no harm done even if I don’t buy it. After you two have bought it, it’ll be fine if you let me borrow it for a few days.”

If it had been anyone else saying those words, Owen would have already punched them in the face. But it had been Chris, the commander of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment. He was known for his strict self-discipline both inside and outside their country. Whenever someone talked about the paragon of discipline and strict values, the commander of the Xialan Regiment would come up nine out of ten times.

Exactly what was a commander like Chris planning on doing by borrowing a Leaf for a few days? Even if Owen wanted to think of a decent and honest reason, he couldn’t come up with one. If his teacher wanted to turn the Leaf into a spirit charmer, exactly what could he hope to accomplish in just a few days? Besides, Zhan Yan wasn’t lacking strong spirit charmers. With Chris’ authority as a commander, he could easily have a few strong ones transferred over to him. Why would he need to borrow a Leaf?

Owen refused to believe that it was because Chris coveted the Leaves’ beauty. He’d rather believe that his teacher was going to bring the Leaf home and make it into a delicious meal.

“I have some questions I want to ask the Leaf.” Noticing Owen and Mila’s strange expressions, Chris offered a short explanation.

Owen and Mila were still doubtful; Yin Qie Zi had also caught onto a slight hint of danger in Chris’ answer. The topic that was most relevant to the Leaves would be information on the Flower.

Chris looked at Owen and explained in a coaching voice, “The Danyas are obsessed with the Leaves. Even though they’ve already received ten Leaves as peace offerings, they’ve actually requested to come to the auction to bid on another one. I want to understand the reason why they are so obsessed with the Leaves.”

Owen understood, but then asked puzzledly, “Isn’t it because the Leaves’ beautiful appearances are well-suited to their tastes?”

“I don’t believe it’s that simple.” Chris frowned and said, “According to our investigation, Xi Zong once had around 2000 registered Leaf slaves. Nowadays, the number of Leaves still in Xi Zong doesn’t even amount to 20. All the others had been bought by the Danyas. They had paid prices much higher than the market value to forcefully obtain most of those Leaves. A simple infatuation with the Leaves’ appearances doesn’t explain the Danya’s stubborn attachment to them.”

Chris suddenly paused and turned to his student. In a serious voice, he said, “Owen, you need to remember, even if we are in a period of peace, our greatest enemies are the Danyas! Although we have once successfully pushed back their invasion, it doesn’t mean we will win against them next time! You always have to treat them as your enemies!”

Owen wasn’t the slightest bit surprised. Chris’ hatred for the Danyas wasn’t any news to him. He quickly straightened and replied, “Yes!”

Owen then motioned with a hand. “Teacher, please sit.”

“You don’t need to mind me,” Chris said while shaking his head. “I’ll leave after I take a look around. You can go attend to that friend of yours.”

“Haha! What are you talking about, Teacher? I don’t need to attend to him. He can take care of himself.”

While laughing, Owen turned around to look. Sure enough, Yin Qie Zi had already sat down and was minding his own business. Owen didn’t know whether to smile or become angry at the sight. Even in front of the commander of the Xialan Regiment, Yin Qie Zi hadn’t bothered changing his attitude. He was exactly like a cold and arrogant prince who disliked associating with others. On the other hand, the actual prince of Zhan Yan, Prince Edward, wasn’t the least bit cold or arrogant.

Mila immediately wheeled herself towards Yin Qie Zi and started chatting with him. She didn’t want him to seem too aloof and arrogant. Otherwise, he would leave a bad impression on Chris.

In reality, Chris had already taken notice of Yin Qie Zi. It was hard for people to ignore that head of silvery-purple hair. What Chris had focused on, however, was Yin Qie Zi’s eyes. That pair of red eyes…

He frowned and asked Yin Qie Zi, “Why are your eyes red?”

Yin Qie Zi was startled by the question. Usually, people would ask about his hair color. They never mentioned his red eyes. Against all his expectations, Chris just had to pay attention to his eyes!

He pretended to be unperturbed and replied, “I have Leaf ancestry.”

Chris’ frown deepened at those words. Just when he was about to ask in detail, the door to the box opened. Everyone inside looked reflexively at the door.

“Owen, let me introduce you to someone. This is Jin Qi Er, our friend from Danya―”

Edward walked into the box, only noticing Chris when he was almost finished with his sentence. His eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the commander, suddenly at a loss of what to do. The Danyas were standing right behind him; it was already too late for him to go back the way he came.

Yin Qie Zi glanced calmly at Edward’s party. He immediately noticed that Cas was standing beside Edward. Cas was wearing the uniform of an imperial guard, his mask nowhere to be found. He was standing close behind Edward, as if he were the personal guard of the prince.

Yin Qie Zi widened his eyes upon seeing Cas, but he knew it wouldn’t be good for him to appear surprised. He quickly withdrew his eyes and nervously turned his head. He only hoped no one had discovered his abnormal behavior.

In comparison, Cas’ acting skills were far better than Yin Qie Zi’s. Cas acted as if he didn’t know the other at all. He merely glanced at Yin Qie Zi’s conspicuous silvery-purple hair, a completely normal reaction for someone seeing that sort of hair color for the first time.

“This man here is Zhan ∙ Chris ∙ Wollier. The commander of our country’s Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment.” Summing up his courage, Edward proceeded to introduce both sides. “This is Jin Qi Er, an emissary from Danya.”

When the group of Danyas walked into the room, they had to bend their heads to avoid hitting the doorframe. Their tall stature immediately brought an overbearing feeling into the room. The box was supposed to hold around fifteen people, but it was already feeling crowded with just ten people inside.

The Danya who stood at the front was Jin Qi Er. He smiled and said perfectly in the human language, “Commander Chris is very well-known in my country.”

Chris only snorted coldly. He turned and instructed Owen, “After you buy the Leaf, remember to send it to me.” He left swiftly after giving his order, without saying goodbye to anyone.

At Chris’ sudden departure, even Edward, who was skilled at maneuvering social gatherings, had trouble keeping up his smile. He smiled drily and explained to the Danyas, “I apologize. Commander Chris must be in a bad mood.”

Owen and Mila blinked at his answer. If worded like that, then Chris had probably been in a bad mood for the past twenty years. Whenever anyone mentioned the Danyas in front of Chris, his expression would turn ugly. They should feel lucky that he hadn’t started admonishing them right then and there.

Owen turned around to look at Yin Qie Zi, wanting to poke fun at Edward’s distress with him. He quickly noticed that Yin Qie Zi’s expression was as ugly as Chris’. He had no idea why the other was unhappy again. On second thought, Yin Qie Zi simply didn’t like associating with people. Since there were so many strangers inside the box, it was natural for him to be unhappy.

Owen sighed to himself. It would be best if they could buy the Leaf quickly and go home.

“Ahem!” Edward coughed and said, “Owen, since we had decided to come to the auction on the spur of the moment, the attendant at the front couldn’t find an empty box for us. I didn’t have the heart to push him, so I decided we could just share the same box. I hope there isn’t a problem?”

…Of course there’s a big problem! Owen suddenly wished he could kill Edward with his glare. They were aiming to buy the Leaf, but so were the Danyas. If they sat together in the same box, wouldn’t it just be easier for their two parties to get into a fight?

Edward instantly noticed Owen’s strange expression. Although he knew how to take a hint, he couldn’t just turn around and leave.

Moreover, Owen knew how to conduct himself appropriately when needed. In front of the Danya emissaries, he couldn’t simply reject his own prince’s request, no matter how good a relationship he had with Edward.

“No problem. There’s no harm at all!” While replying, Owen didn’t forget to slap his friend on the back a few times. Of course, he didn’t forget to use all his strength either.

Edward barely managed to prevent himself from coughing up blood at the force of Owen’s slaps. He glared at Owen out of the corner of his eyes. He then ordered the attendant standing in the room, “Clean this place up a bit. Bring in more fruits and drinks. Also, bring in some more of those catalogs.”

The attendant immediately nodded and went about doing as he was told. Not only was he extremely respectful, his movements were also quick and efficient. He understood that he was surrounded by nobles whom he couldn’t afford to offend.

Everyone was already seated. Even Fenny, a maid, was sitting down beside Mila. The only one who was still standing was Cas. He stood beside Edward, looking especially cold. His whole person seemed to meld in with the shadows.

Seeing that Cas was the only one standing, Jin Qi Er couldn’t resist telling Edward, “Your guard is a skillful man worthy of respect.”

Edward laughed and said, “Indeed, Left Eye is very skilled.”

Seeing that Edward did not plan on ordering Cas to sit, Jin Qi Er became slightly unhappy. Strictly speaking, every person in his entourage was his subordinate, but he would never allow them to stand while he was sitting. On further thought, this was probably one of the differences between their cultural practices. The palace of the humans was full of standing guards doing their duty.

This was very different from what he was used to. In Danya, skillful experts were the most respected members of society.

At that moment, the attendant returned. He moved around, serving out plates of food and drinks like a rapidly moving river. He also didn’t forget to place extra catalogs on the table. Edward smiled and picked one up. “Finally. Let’s see if there are any interesting items at this auction.”

Jin Qi Er followed and picked up another copy of the catalog. Despite this, he wasn’t especially interested in the listings. He had a clear target for this auction. There was no need for him to look at anything else.

Seeing Cas standing beside Edward, Yin Qie Zi was finally sure that he was the prince’s subordinate. Looking at Cas’ indifferent expression now and remembering the twisted and crazy smile he had on a few days ago… It was quite difficult for Yin Qie Zi to accustom himself to the difference.

“Yin Qie Zi.”

Hearing his name, Yin Qie Zi turned to look at the speaker. Mila was looking at him with a troubled expression on her face, as if hesitating whether or not to speak. He could guess why she was troubled. He quietly said to her, “You don’t need to fight with the Danyas over the Leaf. I don’t mind.”

Mila nodded and said, “I’m very sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Owen leaned forward with a bitter expression on his face. Gritting his teeth, he whispered back, “It doesn’t matter? How simple you two have made it out to be! Did you hear what Teacher said to me when he left? He told me to bring the Leaf to him after I buy it! H-he knew the Danyas were also here to bid on the Leaf, so what do you think he meant by those words?”

Yin Qie Zi smirked and replied, “It means you’re dead if you lose to the Danyas.”

Owen gave a devastated smile. Mila leaned toward him and said quietly, “Owen, even if you want to bid on the Leaf, I don’t think we’ve brought enough money. Uncle Chris mentioned that the Danyas often pay higher than the market value to buy Leaves. I’m afraid our money…”

“We can just buy on credit.” Owen said helplessly, “Since it’s Teacher’s personal request, Father should agree to pay for us, right?”

Anxiously, Mila said, “But if the price is too high, I don’t think even Father will be able to afford it.”

At that, worry appeared on both of their faces. In contrast, Yin Qie Zi was feeling quite relaxed. Even though the Leaf was originally supposed to be a gift for him, he still hadn’t figured out how he was going to find a place for the Leaf to live. Now hearing that the chances of him obtaining the Leaf was lower, he sighed in relief.

The auction finally began. Yin Qie Zi intently watched the stage as the goods came on one by one. The audience’s reactions were rather lukewarm at the start, but a buyer had been found for every item. Yin Qie Zi flipped through the catalog while watching the stage at the same time. There were quite a few special spirits for sale today. Although he wanted to buy some of these hard-to-obtain spirits, their prices were simply too high. He’d rather just order Litelli to go and find them in the wild.

He continued watching the auction, but he soon felt something was off. He turned around and caught Cas looking at him with a scornful smile on his face. In a blink of the eye, Cas returned to the indifferent expression of an imperial guard. It was as if the smile had just been an illusion.

But Yin Qie Zi knew it wasn’t an illusion. He lowered his eyes and intentionally avoided looking in Cas’ direction.

“Our next item is three strands of hair from a Flower. The Flower is the guardian of the Leaf Tribe. They are never apart from the tribe, so these strands of hair are especially rare spirits. It has been ten years since they’ve last appeared on the market. Every spirit binder sitting in the audience, make sure you don’t miss this chance!”

Yin Qie Zi couldn’t restrain a strange expression from appearing on his face after he heard the auctioneer’s words. He knew his body was comprised of numerous precious spirits; he had even used his own hair and blood to make some spirit medicines. But as a potential bidder, it was strange to see something he could find on his own body being sold onstage.

Those strands of hair shouldn’t be his, right? Yin Qie Zi flipped through the catalog and stopped on the listing of the Flower’s hair. In the description below, the strands were clearly stated to be violet in color. They certainly didn’t belong to him then. Were they counterfeit items? Or maybe they came from another Flower?

After closely examining the information in the catalog, Yin Qie Zi found that the stands of hair came from the continent Junde; the only continent that still had a thriving population of Leaves. The catalog even gave a description of how the strands of hair had been obtained.

An adventure team had mistakenly intruded on the Leaf Tribe’s territory and were subsequently attacked by the guardian Flower. The two parties battled with each other… The battle was described in a thrilling manner, but Yin Qie Zi knew none of it was true. If that adventure team had truly battled against a Flower, then they would’ve been dead in an instant. How could they have survived for so long? At most, they had intruded on the Leaf Tribe’s territory and had been chased away.

Despite the exciting description, only three people were bidding on the strands of hair, but all three were determined to win. The price rose higher and higher, the three strands of hair soon became the highest priced item since the auction began.

Yin Qie Zi wasn’t surprised at the rocketing price. A Flower’s hair was capable of improving the body’s constitution and overall function. The bottles of medicine he had given Owen on his birthday required this exact spirit. To other people, a Flower’s hair was probably the hardest-to-obtain spirit. However, it couldn’t be any easier for him.

Upon second glance, the three bidders appeared extremely familiar to him. They were all famous spirit binders in the city.

In the end, the strands of hair had been sold at twenty times their original price.

Mila made an effort to contain her expression, but she couldn’t stop the ray of surprise that flashed through her eyes. Owen couldn’t resist and turned to look at Yin Qie Zi’s thick head of hair. Only after Yin Qie Zi glared at him a few times did he turn to look at the stage again. Soon after, Owen leaned in close and whispered in Yin Qie Zi’s ear, “It has been twenty years since the Leaf Tribe left Xi Zong. The auctioneer said that a Flower’s hair hadn’t appeared on the market for ten years. Does that mean the hairs that had been sold ten years ago belonged to you?”

Yin Qie Zi flushed red at the question. He turned abruptly and glared fiercely at Owen. Of course, he didn’t bother responding.

Owen was startled by the other’s glare. He didn’t know what he had done wrong. Even Edward and Jin Qi Er were surprised by the two’s sudden movements. Edward asked curiously, “How did you anger Yin Qie Zi again?”

Owen didn’t know how to explain. He moved his mouth, but no words came out. Finally, Mila smiled and said, “Owen said something stupid again. He asked Yin Qie Zi why spirit binders are so strange and why they would pay so much for a few strands of hair. He had completely forgotten Yin Qie Zi was a spirit binder himself!”

Edward laughed at his friend. “You obviously asked the wrong question!”

Afterwards, Edward directed a question at Yin Qie Zi. “Did you want to buy those strands of hair as well? The price they had been sold for is truly shocking. What kind of spirit medicines can they be made into?”

Yin Qie Zi said simply, “The medicine they can be made into can improve the body’s constitution. It is very effective on people who are suffering or have suffered a heavy injury. Although healing medicines don’t require the spirits of a Flower’s hair, their effectiveness is improved greatly upon addition. The medicine can completely heal an old injury and even improve the body’s constitution to a state that is much better than before it was injured.”

“Is that true?” Before Edward could even reply, Jin Qi Er cut in and asked excitedly. “Even if it’s an internal injury from many years ago? Can the medicine heal the damage?”

Yin Qie Zi frowned and replied cautiously, “It would depend on the injury, but the effectiveness of this medicine is indeed very good. If you can tell me how long ago the patient had sustained the injury and what kind of symptoms they have, then I can hazard a guess whether the medicine will be useful to them.”

As if he had finally found a doctor for an incurable disease, Jin Qi Er immediately set about describing the patient’s symptoms. “Alright. He had sustained the injury around twenty years ago. Normally, the injury doesn’t affect him. But whenever the weather is changing or when he is having an intense battle, he would start having chest pains and would sometimes have difficulty breathing. It’s to the point where he has sometimes fainted after a fierce battle.”

“It sounds like he has been injured in the chest?” Yin Qie Zi asked in detail, “Do you know how he had been injured?”

“He had been hit in the chest and sent flying. He had landed heavily and broken three ribs. It seems he had other injuries at the time too and had been bleeding heavily. I wasn’t there when it happened, so these are only what I’ve heard from others. Additionally, he hadn’t bothered nursing himself back to health after he had been injured. He rushed about day and night, which is why his injury is still plaguing him now.”

Yin Qie Zi nodded and continued to ask, “How old is he now?”

“He’s 182 this year,” Jin Qi Er replied. Yin Qie Zi didn’t react much to the number, but the expressions on the people around him immediately grew strange. Jin Qi Er quickly explained, “The lifespan of a Danya is around 300 years. If converted to a human lifespan, he is at the peak of his strength right now.”

Yin Qie Zi frowned at Jin Qi Er’s explanation and pondered to himself. Sitting opposite of him, Jin Qi Er stared at him nervously.

Yin Qie Zi finally nodded and said, “He can be healed. However, too much time has passed since he’d been injured. He will need to take a lot of medicine.”

“Will the three strands of hair from before make enough?” Jin Qie Er quickly asked.

“I don’t know how long it has been since those hairs have been pulled off. They are less effective the older they are. It also depends on the spirit binder’s competence and how they will use the hairs. Usually, a spirit binder would use a single hair to make multiple bottles of the same medicine. They can cover their production costs this way, but the effectiveness of their medicine is drastically decreased.”

Jin Qi Er turned around and started discussing eagerly with the others in his group. As the Danyas were speaking in their own language, no one else understood what they were saying, but they guessed the conversation had something to do with the spirit medicine.

Seeing they were having such a heated discussion, Yin Qie Zi cut in and said lightly, “Twenty years are simply too long. Even if a single hair is used for one bottle of medicine, he’ll need at least five bottles for him to be completely healed.”

The Danyas’ discussion immediately came to a halt. The smile that had been on Jin Qi Er’s face disappeared. He asked, “Does that mean we need five strands of hair?”

Yin Qie Zi nodded in response.

Unwilling to give up, Jin Qi Er continued to ask, “Are there no substitutes? Money isn’t a problem.”

Yin Qie Zi merely shook his head, shattering the other’s hopes.

Jin Qi Er was greatly disappointed. He turned around and spoke with the other Danyas; disappointment appeared on their faces as well when they heard his explanation. Jin Qi Er mumbled to himself, “If Indigo continues to be like this, then he’ll truly be replaced by White. I thought we finally had a ray of hope…”

…Indigo? Yin Qie Zi froze at the mention of that name.

An injury from twenty years ago? He had been sent flying and landed heavily? Rushing about day and night after he had been injured?

At that moment, Edward asked, “Indigo? Do you mean Indigo of the Four Colors?”

Jin Qi Er hesitated for a bit, but nodded. “Yes.”

“So that’s how it is. Twenty years ago… Then he must have been injured during the war.” Edward muttered to himself, only breaking out of his reverie when Owen slapped him on the back. Edward immediately noticed Jin Qi Er’s uncomfortable expression. His mind was blank for a moment before he realized why.

During the war between Zhan Yan and Danya twenty years ago, Indigo had been one of the two Colors on the battlefield. He had even been in charge of commanding the main assault army.

Edward quickly stated, “The war happened a long time ago. Aren’t we at peace right now?”

Jin Qi Er merely nodded at Edward’s question. He turned and asked Yin Qie Zi, “Does that mean nothing would happen even if he takes three bottles of this medicine? Would his body improve at least a little?”

Yin Qie Zi remained silent. He flipped though his copy of the catalog and folded the corners of several pages. He then handed the catalog to Jin Qi Er and said, “Go buy the special spirits I’ve marked and the three strands of hair from before. I will make it for you.”

“What?” Jin Qi Er stared at him in shock.

“The medicine. I’ll make it for you.”

A bit surprised, Jin Qi Er asked, “You can make spirit medicine?”

“I’m a spirit binder.”

Jin Qi Er didn’t know how to respond. He thought for a bit and said, “But you said we need five strands of hair, the auction is only selling three.”

“I will think of a way, but I’ll need some time.” Yin Qie Zi calculated in his head and spoke, “Give me two weeks, you’ll have your medicine then.”

Jin Qi Er hesitated for a long while, but finally asked, “What is your price?”

Yin Qie Zi was first puzzled when he noticed the other’s cautious expression. The Danyas obviously greatly desired this spirit medicine, so why were they hesitating when he had offered to make it for them? However, when he heard Jin Qi Er’s question, he finally understood why they were hesitant to accept his offer. They probably thought he was going to ask for a very high price. They might even be thinking that he was a swindler.

At that thought, a frown appeared on Yin Qie Zi’s face. He didn’t know what price he should ask of them. He didn’t want their money. The only reason he had offered to make the medicine was because of his guilty conscience. After all, Indigo’s injury had been due to…

Judging from the situation though, it might make the Danyas even more suspicious if he said he would do it for free.

Yin Qie Zi didn’t know how to respond. After hesitating a bit, he looked reflexively at Mila. When Mila blinked at him, he realized he was staring at her. What was he doing looking at Mila for help? She had no reason to help him solve his problems. Besides, she didn’t even know all the details of the situation.

Mila chuckled, drawing everyone’s gazes to her. Smiling, she told Jin Qi Er, “How about this? Forfeit your right to bid on the Leaf at this auction, that’ll be the price for the medicine. Alright?”

Yin Qie Zi was shocked. He’d never thought Mila would make such a request.

At Mila’s request, Jin Qi Er’s troubled expression faded away. But he couldn’t resist questioning, “Is your medicine truly effective?”

Before Yin Qie Zi could reply, Owen cut in and shouted, “What do you mean by that? Yin Qie Zi is the best spirit binder I’ve ever met. The medicine he makes are ridiculously expensive, but they’re amazingly effective!”

Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist rolling his eyes at Owen.

Edward also added, “He is indeed a very skilled spirit binder. He once made a hair dye the color of Xialan flowers for my royal mother. The recipe for that hair dye had stumped several spirit binders before him.”

Usually, if a customer was doubtful about the effectiveness of his medicine, Yin Qie Zi would tell them to not buy it. However, it was different now. No matter what, he wanted Jin Qi Er to take the medicine back to Indigo. But since he had never implored an unwilling customer to buy his medicine, he had no idea how to market his products when the situation called for it.

Even if Yin Qie Zi was incapable of marketing his medicine, Jin Qi Er wasn’t about to waste this rare opportunity. He said, “I’ll apologize first for what I’m going to say next. If your medicine doesn’t work, then I will definitely come find you and exact justice. If it does prove effective, then I will personally apologize to you and bring along generous gifts!”

Yin Qie Zi secretly sighed in relief. He swiftly replied, “If the medicine doesn’t work, then you can come and take away the Leaf. You don’t need to pay any price. However, even if the medicine does work, you still don’t need to come look for me.” You won’t find me even if you do, Yin Qie Zi added to himself.

Jin Qi Er finally felt assured by those words. In the end, he was still an emissary from Danya. If both the prince and the son of the Warlord were vouching for Yin Qie Zi, then the latter was probably not trying to swindle them. The most important thing right now was to buy the special spirits Yin Qie Zi had marked. He turned around and looked at the earmarked catalog with his subordinates. This was an important task, they couldn’t afford to miss any of the special spirits.

Seeing that the issue of Indigo’s medicine had been settled, Yin Qie Zi also calmed down. He turned around and saw Mila looking at him with a vague expression. The corners of her mouth were lifted only slightly in a semblance of a smile. In contrast, her eyes were glittering with light and overflowing with smiles.

Her smiling eyes were a bright green and they glittered like a lake illuminated by sunshine. Although Yin Qie Zi knew he shouldn’t, he couldn’t help but stare into her eyes. He stared at Mila until she pulled away and retracted her smile. What replaced it instead were two bright pink spots on her cheeks, making her appear as adorable as before.

Even though she hadn’t wanted to avoid Yin Qie Zi’s eyes and had been striving to win over her shyness, it was still too embarrassing to openly stare at each other in public. In the end, Mila lowered her head; the tips of her ears were bright red. She was hesitant to look at Yin Qie Zi again.

Seeing this, Yin Qie Zi also looked away. He suddenly felt that his own cheeks were burning with embarrassment. He rubbed his face and hurriedly said “Thanks for earlier” to Mila. He then looked down at the stage, as if he were very interested in the current item being auctioned off. The item was a long-sword, but Yin Qie Zi never saw the need to change his sword. His current sword, Nightclaw, had been obtained from the beast with the same name.

Beside him, Owen sighed loudly. Just now, Fenny had been glaring at him fiercely. Her terrifying expression seemed to have been saying that if he dared to breathe too loudly and disturb the moment between Yin Qie Zi and Mila, she would chop his head off so that he couldn’t breathe anymore.

Owen grumbled to himself, “Exactly who is the servant here? What is Yehv so busy with lately? Why isn’t he here to control his wife?”

Even though they were called servants, Owen didn’t actually dare enrage either Yehv or Fenny. They weren’t normal servants after all. If he had an argument with them, he wasn’t even sure whose side his father would take… Though it most likely wouldn’t be his!

At that moment, the auctioneer declared that the next item was “One Leaf Slave.” Yin Qie Zi jolted at the mention, but then remembered the Danyas wouldn’t be fighting with him over the Leaf. Then wouldn’t the Leaf be his now?

So…

Exactly what should he do with the Leaf?

 

Next: Chapter 6: Blue…The Melancholic Past and Present
Previous: Chapter 4: The Xialan Flower…The Years That Were Filled with Plum-Colored Petals
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Translator: Nannyn
Proofreaders: Rose, dinoj