I’m not Left Eye. I am Cas! Cas! I am Left… Cas!
Time took away the shock of losing my family. Time took away the grief of my brother’s tragic death. Time took away my hatred. Time took away everything… Then time can go to hell!
I am Cas! Cas! Cas!
Gong Hua, wait for me! I will definitely find you. I will hate you. I will make you suffer. I will destroy you, because Cas hates you to the bone, and I am Cas!
The moment they arrived at the venue where the auction was being held, Yin Qie Zi immediately felt an urge to turn the carriage around and escape. He even started to resent Owen and Mila a bit for meddling in his business. He simply could not afford to keep a Leaf by his side. Whether it was the things he had done in the past or the things he was going to do in the future, he couldn’t let the Leaves know about them!
Even though he wanted to leave, he found that he couldn’t do it.
The venue was packed. Although there was a huge square in front of the auction house, every inch of it was filled with people. The streets were also lined with the carriages of the nobility. The numerous carriages followed closely on the heel of one another and were forced to stay in place due to the heavy traffic.
Yin Qie Zi had never seen this many people gathered at the auction house before. With that said, he previously did make an effort to avoid the days when the venue was packed. It allowed him to avoid the irritation of having to deal with a crowd. In any case, the things he bid on were never what other people wanted. He didn’t need to fight with others for them.
Yin Qie Zi glanced out the carriage window. It seemed they had a while to wait before getting out. There were simply too many carriages waiting in line before them. Some of the nobles were already becoming restless and irritated, cursing left and right. Some had even kicked their servants out of the carriage. The servants wore aggrieved expressions on their faces as they walked to the front of the line to check out the situation.
Yin Qie Zi then glanced at the two nobles in their carriage, one sitting adjacent from him and the other sitting beside him. Due to their titles, Owen and Mila were the most privileged out of all the nobles gathered here and thus were most entitled to cut through the line. If they ordered Fenny to go and inform the auction house, they could probably enter the venue immediately.
Mila appeared extremely excited. Her eyes widened as she glanced out the window at the long line of carriages. She exclaimed, “There’s so many people!”
Owen then followed suit and also looked out the window. When he heard the cursing outside, he let out a “Ha” and remarked, “This voice definitely belongs to this War-Glaive or that Warrior.” In high spirits, Owen began to eavesdrop on the various nobles as they cursed. Occasionally, he would click his tongue and comment on how he didn’t know they were this well-versed in profanities and such.
In any case, it seemed Owen and Mila had no plans of taking advantage of their titles to enter the auction house sooner. Yin Qie Zi sighed in relief. At least now, he had some time to think of how he would face the Leaf later on.
Owen suddenly exclaimed in shock and turned around to face them. “I just saw Edward’s carriage.”
“Really?” Mila asked in surprise. “Didn’t he say he couldn’t come when you invited him?”
Owen shrugged and replied, “Yes, he said he wouldn’t have time since he was responsible for entertaining the emissaries from Danya. Who knew he’d actually sneak out and come here?”
Mila was doubtful of her brother’s words. She said in slight disbelief, “I don’t thinks so. His Highness is never lazy when it comes to his responsibilities.”
Fenny put down her yarn and asked tentatively, “Could it be that the emissaries wanted to come to the auction and His Highness brought them here in his carriage?”
At her suggestion, Owen and Mila finally stopped speculating. There was a very high possibility that Fenny’s suggestion was true.
Mila nodded and added, “They are auctioning off a Leaf today. Most likely, the Danyas have come to bid on the Leaf.”
Yin Qie Zi froze in shock and asked puzzledly, “Do the Danyas like the Leaves?”
Owen nodded in response. “Yes, that’s why our peace offerings mostly consist of Leaves. We’ve already been gifting Leaves to them for several years. They also have merchants who bring Leaves to Xia Sha for them. Judging from that, I can say they’ve bought most of the Leaves in Xi Zong. I’ve heard they have at least two thousand Leaves living in their country.”
Two thousand Leaves? Yin Qie Zi was shocked. He asked in disbelief, “Why do they like the Leaves so much?”
When he heard this question, Owen was reminded of Yin Qie Zi’s true identity. He replied a bit uneasily, “Even if you ask me, I wouldn’t know. I’ve only heard they like Leaves and that they’ve spent a great amount of effort amassing all the Leaves from Xi Zong. Other than that, I’m not very sure.”
Seeing Owen’s frantic expression, Yin Qie Zi understood that he shouldn’t pursue the question. He merely nodded and gazed quietly at the chaos outside. Occasionally, he would glance at the prince’s carriage, thinking that the Danya with gold-streaked hair might be sitting inside. What did the Danya call himself again? Right, his name was Jin Qi Er. Maybe he knew Indigo?
“Ah?” Mila leaned forward and pulled on Owen’s sleeve. “Owen, look at that carriage over there. Doesn’t it belong to Commander Chris? It has Zhan Yan’s coat of arms and the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment’s insignia on it. It should be Commander Chris’ carriage right?”
“It really is! What’s up with everyone today?” Owen shouted in fright, “What is Teacher doing at an auction? I never knew he came to these kinds of places.”
Mila quickly assured him, “Maybe it’s not him. Other members of his family could have borrowed his carriage to come, like his wife perhaps.”
Owen’s furrowed brow relaxed. If not for Mila’s suggestion, he’d have thought that his teacher only showed up because all the other nobles in Zhan Yan seemed to be gathering at the auction.
“If we continue waiting like this, we probably won’t reach the venue even after the auction has started.” Fenny directed her question at Mila, “Why don’t I go and arrange for them to let us in?”
Mila nodded in assent.
Fenny is leaving? Yin Qie Zi was alarmed at the sudden turn of events. His heart began to pound rapidly.
If Fenny were to leave, then only Owen, Mila, and he would be left on the carriage. His injured shoulder would slow his attacking speed, but Owen wasn’t prepared to guard against him at all. If he attacked suddenly, he could probably kill Owen with one hit.
After he killed Owen, then all Mila could do would be to wait for her own death.
Should he make a move?
Fenny poked her head out and spoke a few words to the coachman. She then turned around and smiled. “It’s already done. I’ve asked the coachman to talk to His Highness and ask him to bring us along with him.”
“Oh, Edward truly has his uses,” Owen said and laughed loudly.
Yin Qie Zi hid his right hand behind his back. He clenched his fist tightly and glanced out the window. He maintained a cool expression on his face and slowly felt himself calming down. He’d never expected to have the chance to make a move at this moment, so it wasn’t considered a failure for him. He had only returned to his original plan.
Not long after, the carriage finally moved from its spot. The nobles around them stuck their heads out one after another. Irritation could be seen on their faces, but when they saw that the moving carriage belonged to the royal family, they quickly disguised their anger. They had also noticed that the carriage following behind Prince Edward’s didn’t belong to the royal family, but upon the sight of the Paladin family crest, they didn’t dare show even a hint of their irritation.
Many of the nobles glanced curiously at Yin Qie Zi. For the most part, they only stared at his hair and then curiously speculated on his identity.
Yin Qie Zi quickly noticed that many people were staring at him. He immediately drew the curtains across the window and turned to face the inside of the carriage. Coincidentally, his eyes met Mila’s.
Slightly worried, she asked, “Do you dislike crowded places? Do you want to go home first? We can let Owen go in by himself to buy the Leaf. We’ll return home first, is that alright?”
Yin Qie Zi was silent for a moment. He then quietly explained, “We don’t need to go back. I had acted purely on instinct just now. In the past, I was afraid people would see through me and notice that I was different, that I wasn’t human. I avoided crowded places because of that. But there’s nothing to worry about now. I should look like any other human, right?”
He looked at Mila and then at Owen. The two quickly nodded their heads, their movements exactly the same. Only now did they look like a pair of twins. Yin Qie Zi looked at the two’s same expression and couldn’t resist laughing.
“You laughed! You actually laughed! How rare!” Owen started yelling, making big deal out of it.
Yin Qie Zi immediately stopped laughing and started glaring fiercely at Owen. After hesitating a moment, he pulled the curtains aside and glanced out again. It was simply too dark inside the carriage with the curtains drawn.
Unexpectedly, when he opened the curtains, he found they had already arrived at the door of the auction house. Over a dozen guards stood in two rows, currently welcoming the guests on the royal carriage. The first to step out was Prince Edward.
As Fenny had surmised, the guests accompanying the prince were the Danya emissaries. The minute the Danyas stepped out, Yin Qie Zi could hear a round of gasps in the crowd. The Danyas were simply too eye-catching.
As their average height was around two meters, they stood over the rest of the crowd by at least a head. Their bodies were slim and fit. Most of them had a head of luscious, long hair. Their most striking and unique feature, however, was their hair color. On top of the white base, their hair was streaked with large amounts of gold, with small amounts of blue, red, and black mixed in.
There were four Danyas in total, but only one of them had hair with purely gold streaks. He walked ahead of everyone else, appearing to be the leader of the small group. It was Jin Qi Er, the Danya Yin Qie Zi had seen on the night of the attack at the palace.
Owen was the first one to step down from the carriage. Yin Qie Zi followed after him and gave a strange look at Fenny, who was still sitting inside. She seemed to have no plans to help Mila disembark from the carriage. She simply sat with a girlish smile on her face, appearing like a weak and powerless girl once again.
Yin Qie Zi felt a bit helpless and tried to explain, “There’s a lot of people here. It probably won’t be appropriate for me to lift Mila out.”
From his understanding of human culture, it was extremely inappropriate for a man to hold an unwed girl in his arms in front of a crowd, especially when the prince, a regiment commander, and foreign diplomats were there as witnesses. He might end up being dragged away by the guards if he dared to do such a thing!
Fenny merely blinked innocently at his words. “But I’m not strong enough to lift the young mistress from the carriage.”
Why did she appear so natural while lying? It was as if she believed in her lie. Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt very tired and helpless.
“Fenny, stop fooling around.” With a red face, Mila said quietly, “Yin Qie Zi is right. There are too many people here. It would be extremely inappropriate for him to help me down.”
“Miss, why are you saying that too? I’m truly not strong enough to lift you.” Once she finished speaking, Fenny quickly slipped out of the carriage. She turned around and said, “I will go prepare your wheelchair.”
“Fenny!” Mila exclaimed in shock, but her maid had already walked to the back of the carriage.
The wheelchair is probably heavier than Mila, Yin Qie Zi thought. He sighed lightly and asked, “Mila, is it okay for me to lift you down?”
“So-sorry!” Mila quickly replied, the shame apparent on her face. “You can just leave me here. I just don’t believe that Fenny and Owen will leave me here alone and go in by themselves!”
Yin Qie Zi gazed at Mila silently. He didn’t know if she was telling the truth or if she was merely making an excuse. If he really did as she asked, she might be angry with him instead. He had come across several people in the past who would make excuses but weren’t truly rejecting his help.
Mila, however, repeated in a firm voice, “Really, you can just leave me here! Don’t worry. It’s all because of Owen and Fenny. They’ve gone too far this time.”
Yin Qie Zi closely examined Mila’s expression. Not a bit of hesitation could be seen on her face, only determination. He could see she wasn’t making an excuse to let him leave. He smiled and said, “If Prince Edward ever blames me for this, you’ll have to help me out and say it’s all Owen’s fault.”
Mila stared at him in shock and felt herself being lifted in one swift motion. Startled, she cried out in alarm at the sudden movement. She quickly grabbed hold of the nearest thing to stabilize herself. When she noticed she had grabbed onto Yin Qie Zi’s head, she cried out again. She quickly released her hold and quietly apologized in a sheepish voice, “So-sorry.”
Yin Qie Zi merely grunted in response. Although he was trying his best to maintain his calm, he couldn’t restrain the blush that rose up on his cheeks. Mila had just grabbed onto his head. When they’d left for the auction, he hadn’t bothered coating his hair with the powder of grazing beasts. His hair had been touched directly, without any protection at all. He felt…something he couldn’t bear to describe.
“Yin Qie Zi, Yin Qie Zi, you can put me down.”
When he felt his chest being patted, Yin Qie Zi finally regained his senses. He was still holding onto Mila. Fenny, who stood at the side with the wheelchair, was secretly laughing to herself. The crowd around them was quiet, so quiet that it was abnormal. He couldn’t resist glancing at the people around them. He saw that every single person had their eyes on him and Mila. The prince, the Danya emissaries, various nobles, and even the guards were all quietly staring at them with wide eyes.
Owen was so shocked that his jaw was hanging almost all the way down to his chest.
When he saw they were the center of attention, Yin Qie Zi was so embarrassed that he didn’t dare to look around anymore. He quickly withdrew his eyes and lowered his head to avoid other people’s gazes. With his head lowered, however, he immediately noticed that Mila’s face was flushed red. Even the tips of her ears were red due to her embarrassment. Her head was lowered so much that her face couldn’t be seen.
In one breath, Yin Qie Zi placed Mila onto her wheelchair and quickly pushed her into the auction house without looking back. Fenny pulled up her skirts and ran after them, barely managing to keep up.
After they entered the auction house, Yin Qie Zi pushed Mila toward the great hall without pausing. Only once they were inside the hall did he finally stop to breathe. At that moment, the crowd outside suddenly burst into thunderous laughter. Even though they were quite a distance away from the entrance, they could still hear the laughter loud and clear.
Yin Qie Zi had an urge to bash his head against a wall and die.
“Don’t worry Yin Qie Zi. Y-you didn’t actually do anything. You were just staring in a daze for a little.”
Yin Qie Zi lifted his head and looked at her. Mila’s face was still as red as an apple, but she was trying her best to reassure him.
Seeing this, he made an effort to pull himself together. He looked straight into Mila’s eyes and apologized, “I’m sorry. I’ve embarrassed you just now.”
Faced with Yin Qie Zi’s gaze, Mila lowered her head. She mumbled, “Actually, I didn’t feel all that embarrassed.”
As Mila had her head bowed, Yin Qie Zi could only see her golden hair from where he was standing. This was the best, however, as their faces were so red that it seemed they were about to spew out blood from embarrassment. If they held each other’s gazes for any longer, Yin Qie Zi would probably truly turn around and escape.
“Sir, may I ask if you need me to take you to your seats?”
Pretending to be unperturbed, Yin Qie Zi turned to look at the person who had spoken. It was a young man, dressed in servant’s garb with a smile on his face. Yin Qie Zi hadn’t quite caught what he had said and asked, “What did you just say?”
The attendant respectfully repeated his question, “Would you like me to lead you to your seats? If I could have your admission tickets, if you please.”
Yin Qie Zi frowned at his words. Seeing this, the attendant dared not probe the matter further. Judging from Yin Qie Zi’s luxurious outfit, he knew the latter wasn’t someone to provoke. Even if Yin Qie Zi didn’t have an admission ticket, the most he could do was respectfully ask him to purchase them right now.
“I have the admission tickets here.”
Out of nowhere, Fenny came up and handed several tickets to the waiting young man. He accepted them and immediately praised himself for his foresight. The tickets were for the box seats reserved especially for distinguished guests. Only the highest ranked nobility were able to afford these tickets. From the first impression, he’d thought the young master with silvery-purple hair had an extraordinary air about him. He definitely came from an old and distinguished family.
The young man gave a ninety-degree bow and said reverently, “Please follow me.”
Yin Qie Zi hesitated for a moment, but willingly went forward to push Mila’s wheelchair. Mila lowered her head shyly in response. Fenny laughed to herself all the while by the side. Even though Yin Qie Zi continuously gave her pointed stares, it didn’t stop her laughter.
The young man led the three of them to their box seats, which had an excellent view of the stage as it was situated just to the right of it. The angle the box was built in also blocked curious glances from other attendees. They were seats that offered privacy and a good view.
After they were seated, the attendant busied about serving them fruits and drinks. Yin Qie Zi picked up his drink and took a forceful gulp. Fenny merely sat in her seat peeling a fruit for Mila to eat. All three of them were silent, feeling awkward… Rather, only two of them felt awkward. Fenny wasn’t the slightest bit awkward. Instead she smiled, appearing to be in a good mood. Her good mood, however, made it harder for the other two to restrain the blushes that were spreading over their faces.
Not long after, Owen came into the box, followed by a man who looked around forty years old. The man was dressed in an outfit that resembled a military uniform. His face was angular and his eyebrows also slanted upwards in sharp angles. His whole person exuded energy and an air of capability.
Yin Qie Zi immediately recognized the man. The other hadn’t changed much from the past. There were more wrinkles around his eyes and between his brows. His body also wasn’t as robust as before. However, compared to how West’s appearance had changed, he truly didn’t change much. Yin Qie Zi knew who he was at first glance…
He was the commander of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment―Zhan ∙ Chris ∙ Wollier
Although Chris was one of the people who were aware of Gong Hua’s existence, Yin Qie Zi wasn’t especially worried. Even West hadn’t recognized him, not to mention Chris, who had known him for a much shorter time.
Thinking about the past, they never truly cared about his appearance. All that was important to them was that he wielded a formidable power.
The entire Racing Flames regiment had been beaten miserably.
Chakou had fallen into the enemy’s hands. Alfven Xi Jiang’s whereabouts were currently unknown. The zong jiang of the Right Division was missing. In the end, it was a zong xiao who took charge of the remaining troops and ordered a retreat. With the Danyas hot on their tails, the battered army crossed the Eastern Zhan River and successfully rendezvoused with the Xialan Regiment that was coming for their assistance.
The Racing Flames originally consisted of ninety-thousand soldiers. After the battles at the Zangxia Gates and Chakou, however, only thirty-thousand soldiers remained. This news came as a shock to the king and the nobility residing in Qifeng, finally awakening them to the reality of the war.
For his meritorious conduct of saving thirty-thousand soldiers, West Zong Xiao was to be directly promoted to zong jiang and the temporary commander of the Racing Flames Regiment.
***, the city lord’s residence.
“I am Zhan ∙ Chris ∙ Wollier. The zong jiang of the Xialan Regiment’s Central Division.”
A robust figure walked in and introduced himself before saying anything else.
West was drinking a glass of water. When he heard the other’s rank, he immediately stood up and saluted. He then introduced himself, “Zong Jiang, I am Zhan ∙ West ∙ Paladin, the zong xiao of the Racing Flames Regiment’s Left Division.”
“You won’t stay as zong xiao for long.” Chris stated concisely, “Fifty-thousand additional soldiers will be assigned to the Racing Flames. The Racing Flames will then join the Xialan Regiment in holding back the Danya army. The xi jiang of the Xialan Regiment has already reported to the higher officials. He wants you to lead the Racing Flames.”
Chris did not mention the xi jiang’s name, but most of the public knew the xi jiang also had the surname Wollier. He was Chris’ father. The majority of people assumed that the only reason Chris could be promoted to the position of zong jiang in such a short time was because of his familial ties with the commander. After meeting the man though, West did not think that was the case.
Chris’ back was straight and powerful. He spoke in a concise manner and always had on a strict and self-restrained expression, but his eyes were full of spirit. His whole person exuded a feeling of a sword that could be swiftly drawn at any given moment. He was a model soldier from head to toe.
Noticing West was looking him over, Chris relaxed his expression a bit and gestured for West to sit. He sat down first and poured himself a glass of water. When West was seated, he finally opened his mouth and started chatting as if they were having a normal conversation. “It must have been difficult to protect and lead thirty-thousand soldiers in that kind of situation. I deeply admire you for it.”
West’s heart gave a lurch and he quickly said, “You are being too kind. What happened in the past is not important, what is important at this moment, is how we will push back the Danyas. They are powerful, much more powerful than we’ve expected. They are not the simple barbarians we have made them out to be. They are strong opponents. Even their most basic one-handed swords are larger than our own. They will not be easy to defeat.”
“That is significant information.” Chris asked in detail, “How many of our soldiers would it take to hold back one Danya?”
West calmly analyzed and spoke, “We had been caught unprepared in Chakou. Due to our continuous losses, our soldiers are afraid to go into battle. Adding on the Danya’s high morale, I’m afraid even four or five of our soldiers won’t be able to hold back one of them. However, in normal circumstances, I think around three or even two of our soldiers should be able to stop one of them.”
“Do they have siege weapons?”
Feeling a bit embarrassed, West replied, “I know they have siege-engines. As for other weapons… since we had been caught unprepared, I didn’t see much of anything else.” He paused there, unable to continue. The battle at Chakou had been so shameful that he’d rather have died in the city.
Although he was unable to obtain any further information, Chris did not look disappointed. He only nodded and said, “No matter what, His Majesty the King has already given his order: We must not allow the Danyas to cross the Eastern Zhan River!”
West’s expression changed when he heard those words. The length of the Eastern Zhan River was twice that of the Cha River. Even if they disregarded the northern section that wound around an impassable mountain range, a large section of the river still remained. To guard such a long distance and prevent the Danyas from breaking in was one word: impossible.
Chris had an ugly expression on his face. He knew pulling off such a task would be difficult. Despite that, they were soldiers. If the king commanded them to guard the river, then they could only obey.
Seeing Chris’ expression, West decided to not linger on the topic. The two of them continued chatting about the upcoming battle. They sighed and felt troubled by the king’s impossible command, but didn’t complain any further. Was there truly a battle they couldn’t afford to lose? West himself had said they couldn’t afford to lose Chakou, but what about now?
“What are Yi Shuang, Dashi, and Linlan’s views on this situation? The Danyas have already penetrated into Xi Zong. Do they still plan to observe without lifting a finger?”
Chris replied unenthusiastically, “Dashi has agreed to send troops to help defend Zu Gang. We still don’t know about the other two countries.”
Anger rose up in West the minute he heard Chris’ response. “Zu Gang is a port we’ve lent to Dashi for their personal use. What do they mean by sending out troops to ‘help’ defend it? They should do so in any case!”
Chris shook his head and said, “Calm down. Our own country only started taking this war seriously after the Racing Flames had been defeated. How would it be different for countries that haven’t suffered any losses at all?”
West was taken aback by the other’s words. Chris was younger than him by several years, yet he remained calm throughout the conversation. Unexpectedly, it was an old man like him who felt agitated about the whole affair.
“Well, why don’t we stop here? West Zong Xiao, you should turn in early today. Perhaps tomorrow you will be known as West Zong Jiang. We still have many things to do in the following days. Everything is for the people of Zhan Yan. We fight for them!”
Finished speaking, Chris turned around and left. Looking at Chris’ resolute back, West felt a bit ashamed of himself. The other man was still young, yet he was already a good soldier who thought only of his people and his country. In contrast, an old man like him was hiding something important from his own countrymen. It was perhaps the secret weapon that could guard the Eastern Zhan River against the Danyas.
“…What is it?”
Owen was sitting in front of a tent. The tent was located in a remote corner of the barracks, so few people passed by him, but the ones who did frowned at his unkempt appearance. Even if those soldiers frowned at him, they did not have the energy to care about other people’s business. Owen had no plans to change locations or tidy up his appearance either, he merely sat, dejected, on the ground.
Hearing his name, Owen finally came back to himself. He saw West walking towards him. His cousin looked left and right before saying quietly, “We’ll go in and talk.”
“We can’t, Gong Hua is taking a bath inside.” Owen sighed deeply and said, “Her whole body is covered with blood. She hasn’t had time to bathe ever since we’ve escaped from Chakou. Why don’t you just say what you want here?”
West was quiet for a moment. He then said, “The war is going to start again. New soldiers have been assigned to the Racing Flames. We will assist the Xialan Regiment in the task of guarding the whole Eastern Zhan River.”
Owen jumped up when he heard the last sentence. An “Impossible” leapt out of his mouth. Then he yelled in disbelief, “Guard the whole river? Don’t you know how long the Eastern Zhan River is? How is it possible for us to guard the entire river?”
Of course West understood how ridiculous the whole ordeal was. He helplessly said, “The higher officials said that it is currently harvest season on the Old Zhan Plains. If we let the Danyas break in and plunder our land, we’ll certainly suffer a famine the coming year. We definitely can’t allow the Danyas to cross the Eastern Zhan River.”
Owen roared furiously, “They would’ve already crossed it if not for Gong Hua. If she weren’t there at the time, the Danyas would’ve already taken Zhandong City. There wouldn’t even be an Eastern Zhan River for us to guard!”
West was fell silent for a second and then replied, “That’s why we need her.”
Owen was startled. He understood what West was implying.
“You want to turn Gong Hua into a weapon?”
West furrowed his brows, but still nodded in the end.
“She’s only a girl!” Owen yelled.
West didn’t have the same opinion as Owen. In his mind, the strength and power Gong Hua possessed was far from what a girl should have.
“I definitely won’t agree to this!” Owen grabbed a fistful of West’s clothes, completely disregarding that West was his older cousin. He only yelled exasperatedly, “When we escaped from Chakou, do you know how many Danyas Gong Hua killed for us? If it weren’t for her, we would’ve died in that city! If she hadn’t stayed at the back of the army and prevented the Danyas from chasing us, do you really think thirty-thousand soldiers could have escaped all the way to Zhandong? Did you forget all she has done for us? I’ll look past it if you simply don’t know how to be thankful, but now you want her to kill more people?”
West grabbed Owen’s hands and glared fiercely at him. He widened his eyes and gritted out, “If we don’t protect Zhandong, then girls younger than her will die by the Danyas’ hands! Even if they survive by some chance, they’ll die on the road due to shortage of food! Don’t you understand this?”
Owen was taken aback.
“Zhan Yan is my country. It’s also yours. Not to mention girls, I would even use infants as weapons to protect my country! Do you still call yourself a soldier? Owen!”
Owen was rendered speechless by his cousin’s reprimand. Since long ago, he had already stopped considering himself as a soldier. Would a soldier shield a murderer? Would a soldier escape with a murderer? Would a soldier k-ki…kill his own teammate?
He did not intend to argue with West on those points. He merely stated in a cold voice, “Gong Hua won’t obediently listen to you and kill people. She doesn’t like killing. It’s useless to reason with her, as she doesn’t understand what reason is at all.”
West frowned and said, “She’s already killed that many Danyas. I don’t see how she’s unwilling.”
“That’s because the Danyas were chasing after us!” Distraught, Owen said, “Whenever I am in danger, Gong Hua would lose her senses. She would go into a frenzy and kill everything that tries to come near me!”
A thoughtful expression appeared on West’s face when he heard Owen’s explanation. Owen gazed at him suspiciously, already regretting that he hadn’t listen to Gong Hua’s words, or rather Mila’s words. Mila had wanted Gong Hua to leave Zhan Yan. Thinking about it now, that was probably what they should’ve done in the beginning.
But Owen wasn’t capable of abandoning everything and escaping to a foreign country. Especially when Zhan Yan was experiencing a calamity, he definitely couldn’t leave during the war!
West smiled and said lightly, “That’s simple. The battlefields are full of dangerous places. As a soldier, going into the battlefield is your duty.”
Owen was stunned, but quickly understood what West was planning. West was going to send him into the battlefield, not for fighting… but to force Gong Hua to kill!
Owen paled at this revelation, but West disregarded him, he had already made up his mind. If Gong Hua only killed when Owen was in danger, then he would send Owen into battle!
Publicly, West was being this harsh because they needed to protect the Eastern Zhan River at all costs. Otherwise, the streets of this city would be turned into rivers of blood. Privately, it was because the Danyas had already killed many of his brothers-in-arms. Even Yehv’s whereabouts were unknown. He didn’t even know if Yehv had died in Chakou. How could he not hate the Danyas?
I’ll make these monsters fight to the death amongst themselves!
“West, is your conversation finished? I still have many things to do. I can’t afford to wait too long.”
Owen was so frightened at the stranger’s voice that he almost jumped up. How long had the man been listening to their conversation?
“Don’t be agitated. This is Zhan ∙ Chris ∙ Wollier, the zong jiang of the Xialan Regiment’s Central Division.”
Owen stared in surprise as the man in question approached them. Chris was dressed in a military uniform and looked around to be his age, but the medal hanging from his uniform indeed identified him as a zong jiang.
Owen had heard of Chris, as he was one the most famous soldiers among Zhan Yan’s army. His father was a xi jiang, plus his own promotions were the fastest ever recorded. Both praises and criticisms surrounded his character. Some claimed he was a model soldier, while others claimed his promotions had been due to his father’s connections.
It didn’t matter what Chris’ true character was, what exactly was West trying to accomplish by bringing him here? It had only been a few days when they had decided to conceal Gong Hua’s existence as much as possible to prevent needless trouble. After all, Owen and Gong Hua were still wanted criminals.
Owen turned around and saw Gong Hua standing timidly in the tent’s opening, only exposing one side of her body. She was already dressed, but as she had not sponged off the water on her body before dressing, half of her clothes were wet.
“A woman?” Chris frowned and asked severely, “Why is there a woman in the barracks? This is an action that can put you on trial for violating army decree. Did you bring her here knowing that?”
West quickly explained, “Her name is Gong Hua. She’s the secret weapon I was telling you about. It was due to her that the thirty-thousand soldiers of the Racing Flames managed to survive.”
Due to her? Chris furrowed his brows and looked over Gong Hua. Her appearance and height indicated that she was a woman, but the expression in her eyes made her seem like an underage girl instead. A carpet of wet black hair draped over her body, some stray strands sticking to her cheeks. There were holes in her sleeves and skirt. A normal girl definitely would not allow herself to be seen in such a state. It didn’t take much observation to see that she was filled with fear. How was a frightened girl such as her able to protect thirty-thousand soldiers?
Chris glanced doubtfully at West, the furrow between his brows deepening to three lines.
At the same time, West also felt a bit awkward. He didn’t know how to prove his words. Even if he told Gong Hua to demonstrate her power, she probably wouldn’t even listen. Would she do it if Owen were to ask instead?
He turned to look at Owen, suddenly stumbling upon an idea. He pulled out his sword and pointed it at Owen, even brandishing it a few times for good measure.
Seeing this, Gong Hua ran out of the tent and wedged herself between him and Owen. Countless vines exploded out of the ground, moving like snakes and dancing wildly in the air.
Chris, who had remained quiet this whole time, widened his eyes at the display.
“Gong Hua, stop!” Frightened, Owen immediately grabbed Gong Hua and repeatedly shouted at her to stop. With great difficulty, he managed to control Gong Hua’s instinct to kill. Finally feeling it was safe enough to look away, he turned to West and roared, “Why did you do such a stupid thing? Don’t you know Gong Hua could’ve killed you just now?”
West was taken aback, suddenly realizing how stupid he’d been. He had seen the vines’ attack many times now. If Gong Hua had acted a second faster or if Owen had reacted a second slower, he would’ve been sent flying or pierced by the vines. At that thought, cold sweat streamed down his back.
Standing at the side, Chris couldn’t resist and walked up to get a closer look at the vines. Gong Hua immediately turned her head and stared at him with her blood-red eyes. If he dared to pull out his sword, then he’d be speared by the vines faster than West would have been.
As a soldier, Chris knew how to suppress his fear in front of enemies. The enemy in front of him at the moment was different from all the others he had encountered before. She looked pure, yet dangerous. She stood with spread arms in front of Owen, her pair of blood-red eyes staring straight at West and Chris. Her entire attitude seemed to send out a message―If you don’t want to die, then don’t you dare raise a hand against Owen.
There was no room for negotiation with an enemy like this. The only way to survive was to refrain from harming her object of protection. Chris felt his whole body go rigid, his hands heavy like stones.
West misunderstood the reason for his silence and quickly explained, “The vines aren’t only this size. I’ve seen ones that were five meters in diameter and perhaps even that isn’t her limit. The killing power of these vines is also astonishing. Even if they are just moving on the ground, they can crush people underneath them. If we make these vines crawl over the battlefield a few times, we can completely destroy the Danyas’ morale.”
Let vines that go up to five meters in diameter crawl over the battlefield? Chris didn’t know how to respond to that idea. In a hoarse voice, he asked, “What did you say her name was?”
Proofreaders: PiKairi, Dinoj
In order to raise money and buy information, I had to accept several difficult missions.
In the end, the president of the Assassin’s Guild came knocking on my door.
There’s even a guild for assassins! How ridiculous. My stomach hurts from laughing.
But this guild is pretty convenient for accepting missions and obtaining information. Only, I still don’t have any tips on the matter I want to know the most—Gong Hua’s whereabouts.
The guild president brought me to meet someone.
“If you can work solely for me, I’ll give you the best reward!”
I’ve heard this phrase hundreds of times before. Every employer of mine loved saying it. How extremely dull. I’m not interested in having someone provide for me. However, the person who had said those words this time has a troublesome identity. He is a king.
The guild president put it bluntly, “It’s your choice. Either become the assassin of the royal family or die.”
Damn it, does that even count as a choice?
“Someone wants to kill the Leaves? Is it part of the Danyas’ plans?”
Edward directed the question to the person in front of him. It was a man with a scar on his left eye; even his code name was Left Eye. Edward hadn’t known the assassin for all that long, merely six or seven years. Compared to the time he’d known Owen, his playmate since childhood, those six or seven years were nothing. However, he often felt that the man in front of him was the one who understood him best.
That thought sometimes made him uneasy. He’d always felt that Left Eye knew and understood everything about him. But that was impossible, definitely impossible.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Left Eye responded indifferently. “You gave the order to protect the Leaves, so I did. Anything other than that is none of my business.”
Left Eye always did as his orders commanded him. He did them without asking, without going overboard, and without any hesitation. No matter how absurd his orders were, he did as he was told without making any errors. It was Left Eye’s style, an admirable style.
“If I didn’t have you, then it’d be like I was missing one of my eyes,” Edward praised the other man with a slight smile. Left Eye’s expression darkened when he heard the praise. Thinking that he knew the reason, Edward immediately explained, “Don’t worry, I’ve already promised you. I will release you when I ascend the throne. This agreement hasn’t changed. In fact, I’m even more determined to do it. You truly have helped me out a lot.”
Left Eye coldly smiled and said, “Save it. The more you rely on me and want to release me, the more you can’t allow me to actually leave.”
Edward was shocked, so much that he was unable to refute Left Eye’s claim.
When he had reached adulthood, the king had given Left Eye to him as a present. He was alarmed at the fact that, secretly, his father had several assassins under his command. But he couldn’t deny that the existences of those assassins were necessary. After he took over some of Zhan Yan’s governmental affairs, he truly became more dependent on Left Eye. He had left many of his work for the assassin to do, thus becoming more inseparable from the other.
Would he really be able to honor his promise and allow Left Eye to leave after he ascended the throne? Left Eye was extremely capable at handling things, plus he also knew too much…
Left Eye looked detachedly at the silent prince. He didn’t feel any disappointment, as he had already guessed this outcome.
Unexpectedly, Edward gave a heavy sigh and said easily, “I will still allow you to leave. It is a promise the royal family has made. It will not change. However, before you leave, I hope you’ll still be willing to help me take care of things.”
The prince’s words left Left Eye a little surprised, but he revealed none of that surprise on his face. As coldly as ever, he stated, “So you’ll feel better if I went about killing people willingly?”
Edward stared in shock at the assassin when he heard those words. A wave of anger immediately rose up in him. “Zhan · Cas · Tershiziel!”
Upon hearing that name, Left Eye appeared as if he had been stabbed with a knife. He growled, “Don’t call me Cas! I’m an assassin who kills people! Assassins never use their real name!”
“Yes, it is as Your Highness has said. Your subordinate here is at fault. This humble subordinate will now immediately go investigate the recent attack.” Left Eye had used honorifics in his reply, but his voice was completely sarcastic. It was a special talent of his.
How polite of him. Edward rolled his eyes and pondered over Left Eye’s words. After hesitating for a moment, he said, “No, there’s no need to investigate. It’s fine as long as you protect those peace offerings.”
“I agree. If the investigation turned out that a certain someone’s father had been behind this whole thing, then the situation would surely turn ugly.”
At those words, a light flashed in Edward’s eyes. This was the fundamental reason why he relied so much on Left Eye. The assassin could always pinpoint the root cause of any suspicious happenings.
If it weren’t the Danyas, then the perpetrator had to be one of his own countrymen. Most likely, it had to have been the pro-war faction’s doing. The only thing he wasn’t sure of was the social status of the mastermind. Disregarding Left Eye’s notion that his own father had been behind the whole thing, even if it had been one of leaders of the three spiritmancer regiments, the situation would still turn troublesome.
Edward rubbed his temples, thinking that it might be time for him to go and find the head of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment, Chris, and have a talk with him. However, he should probably go to Owen first. The latter was the son of Warlord Paladin and the student of Commander Chris. He should be aware of many things.
Thinking of Owen, Edward was reminded of another person. He quickly asked Left Eye, “Oh right, what about the matter I told you to investigate last time? The one on Yin Qie Zi.”
A light flashed through Left Eye’s eyes. He then calmly reported, “He had been through several towns before and had told people that he lost his parents in the war 20 years ago. He was then adopted by the spirit binder Lequilier and became his student.”
“That famous spirit binder Lequilier?” Edward exclaimed aloud.
“Yup, that’s the one. I also found out that Lequilier isn’t human. He’s of the Servile Spirits Tribe, the tribe where everyone is short,” Cas replied lazily.
Edward stared in surprise. He had heard that Lequilier wasn’t human, but he didn’t think that the spirit binder belonged to the Servile Spirits Tribe. The tribe was well-known but small in population; they appeared in all sorts of folklores.
“But I’ve heard that the Servile Spirits mostly work as spirit charmers rather than spirit binders.”
Left Eye shrugged and said, “I haven’t investigated that, but I am ninety percent sure that Lequilier is from the Servile Spirits Tribe. I’ll remind you now that if you ever come across someone from the Servile Spirits Tribe, don’t ever mention that they work as spirit charmers. They see themselves as servile spirits, so they’ll be unhappy if they were called spirit charmers. They might even severely lecture you on this, either by words or by fists. Don’t think they wouldn’t just because you are a prince!”
Edward paused and pondered over Left Eye’s warning, but he couldn’t determine what use it was to him. At most, he understood that he couldn’t keep Lequilier under his own personal employ. He then reminded Left Eye, “Continue your report on Yin Qie Zi.”
Left Eye nodded and continued, “Yin Qie Zi left his teacher’s side a few years ago and became a spirit binder himself. About a year ago, he came to Qi Feng and opened a spirit medicine shop. His prices are ridiculously high, but the qualities of his elixirs are very good.”
Left Eye paused and then added, “As for his origins, I can say that I’m not even fifty percent sure of the information I’ve obtained. I wasn’t able to find Lequilier to verify my findings. Plus, there are too many villages that had been destroyed during the war twenty years ago.”
“I understand.” Edward nodded and changed the subject. “I’m quite curious, why are you so knowledgeable about the Servile Spirits?”
“I’m looking for someone.” Left Eye paused and glanced at Edward, who nodded to show that he knew. Left Eye then continued, “By chance, I came across them during my search. I’ve also been to their land.”
“You know where they live?” Edward’s eyes widened. He was greatly interested in the topic.
Left Eye nodded and glanced sideways at his superior. He warned, “Don’t provoke them needlessly. Around half of them have the ability to become spirit charmers. Their tribe’s population ranges around one hundred thousand, which means they have around fifty thousand spirit charmers!”
Upon hearing that number, Edward gasped and mumbled, “What immense power. If we could strike an alliance with them…”
“Dream on!” Left Eye said brusquely, “Unless you are a physical spirit, then they have no interest in you. All they think about is becoming the dog of a physical spirit.”
Edward stared blankly at Left Eye, his mood deflating. He couldn’t resist complaining, “Why are the Servile Spirits so strange? They have fifty thousand capable spirit charmers! If we can obtain that power…”
Left Eye sneered coldly and said in a mocking voice, “If they weren’t so strange, then all of Xi Zong would belong to them. If that happened, humans wouldn’t even have gotten a turn at dominating the continent!”
Edward paused in shock and finally understood the seriousness of the matter. If a tribe in possession of fifty thousand spirit charmers abandoned their strange way of life and became interested in warfare, what kind of dreadful attacks would humankind suffer? Just thinking about it was enough to make him shudder.
“Ah, Left Eye, you truly are like my own indispensible left eye.”
“…My report is finished. Can I leave?”
Edward smiled and gestured with his hand.
Left Eye turned to leave. A few steps later, he remembered something. He turned his head around and asked suspiciously, “Is the reason you especially investigated Yin Qie Zi because Warlord Paladin’s daughter truly plans on getting married to him? He’s a man of unknown origins. Even if Warlord Paladin dotes on his daughter, there is no way he would agree to such a ridiculous match.”
“That’s hard to say.” Edward gave a small smile. “She’s of weak constitution, so she would be bad for the royal line. Besides, the prince doesn’t want to marry her.”
Left Eye glanced at “the prince who didn’t want to marry her” and asked doubtfully, “Do you think His Majesty the King and the Warlord would let you off that easily?”
Edward’s expression darkened slightly. He then sighed and said, “Mila has said that she’s unable to bear children. The physician my royal father has sent also confirmed this fact.”
At this, Left Eye finally believed that Warlord Paladin might marry his daughter off to Yin Qie Zi. A woman who couldn’t bear children would be looked down upon by her husband’s family; unless, of course, she belonged to a family that one couldn’t afford to offend. Yin Qie Zi was parentless. If he were to marry Mila, then he would almost certainly live at the Warlord’s residence in the future. If that happened, then no disservice would be done to Mila herself.
If he truly married her… Ah!
Left Eye smiled coldly. Now, he truly wasn’t in a hurry to do anything to that guy. After all, even if he didn’t lift a finger, he would be able to watch a tragedy play out before him. So what was the rush?
“There’s an auction taking place this afternoon, the biggest one of the year. Rumors say they are putting up one of the Leaf slaves… Ah, my bad, they are putting up one of the Leaves for auction. So go prepare yourself Yin Qie Zi. We’ll be going this afternoon to buy the Leaf. I don’t know if the Leaf is male or female, but I’m hoping it’s a female… Ah, Mila, don’t hit me! Alright alright. It’s a male, definitely a male.”
After returning to his room, Yin Qie Zi sat beside the bed. The more he mulled over Owen’s words, the more he frowned.
How much was a Leaf worth? Seeing as ten Leaves could serve as peace offerings between countries, their value was probably incredibly high, a price the average person could only dream of. But Owen and Mila were planning to buy the Leaf and then gift it to him. This was strange. Most definitely strange!
Someone suddenly knocked on his door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Mila.”
Yin Qie Zi looked down at his injured shoulder, thinking that there was no harm in changing the bandage later. He called out, “Come in.”
Mila did her best to roll her wheelchair into the room. Fenny was following behind her, but did not offer any help. Yin Qie Zi wasn’t the least bit astonished at the scene; Mila always tried to do the things she could do by herself.
Yin Qie Zi paused when he saw Mila coming in and then noticed the medical kit sitting on her lap. His brows immediately furrowed at the sight.
Seeing Yin Qie Zi’s expression, Mila lowered her head and asked dejectedly, “Do you think I’m not capable of doing something like this?”
“No!” Yin Qie Zi quickly explained, “I just think that this kind of thing is unsuitable for someone like you to do. I can change the bandage by myself.”
“It’s because you are always moving around that your wound is taking so long to heal!” Mila instantly became angry at him.
Yin Qie Zi was at a loss for words. Mila was right. During his trip to the palace, not only did he dive in and out of water, but he had also fought off an assassin. After he came back, his wound was constantly aching in pain.
“Then I’ll get Litelli to help.”
Mila became silent at his proposal, but then she nodded. “Alright, you must get him to help. Don’t try to bandage it by yourself. Promise me!”
Yin Qie Zi nodded in response, but Mila was unsatisfied with the action. He opened his mouth and said, “Alright, I promise you.”
Even though she received Yin Qie Zi’s promise, Mila waited in the room until Litelli arrived. She then personally instructed Litelli to help change Yin Qie Zi’s bandage and prevent the latter from doing it himself. After leaving behind the medical kit, she finally agreed to leave.
The master and servant left in the room stared at each other. Litelli blinked innocently at Yin Qie Zi. “I did promise her to help you, but if Master wants me to break the promise, then I’ll definitely have to listen to you, right? So don’t stare at me like that. If you want to change the bandage by yourself, then feel free to do so!”
Yin Qie Zi was silent for a while. He subsequently let out a small sigh and said, “Come and help me.”
How very unusual! Litelli’s eyes widened and he stood still in his spot. When Yin Qie Zi shot him an icy glance, he finally opened the medical kit and took out bandages and other supplies. Yin Qie Zi had already taken off his shirt, revealing the soaked bandage on his shoulder that was dyed slightly red with blood.
His wound originally wasn’t a heavy one; it had closed up and was already forming a scab. After last night’s chaos though, the scab had been torn off and his wound began bleeding heavily again. The flesh around the wound had become bloated and infected due to the water.
Litelli prattled on as he changed the bandage, “You shouldn’t run around like this. Medicine is pretty much ineffective on you. If your wound doesn’t heal, then there’s no way you can be saved!”
“I won’t die that easily.” Yin Qie Zi said lightly, “I had suffered burns all over my body before. The only place left unharmed was my back. Even then, I didn’t die. A small injury like this can’t do anything to me.”
At those words, Litelli remembered the first time he had met Yin Qie Zi. The latter’s battered and beaten form was a tragic sight to behold. He had never seen a physical spirit in such a sorry state. Physical spirits were superior existences; they were always above everyone else! They weren’t like that, not like…someone who had been injured in both mind and body.
Litelli helped Yin Qie Zi clean his wound. Although Yin Qie Zi didn’t complain, Litelli knew that he was in pain just by looking at the muscles that were stretched taut around the wound. He also knew that the pain wasn’t light, as Yin Qie Zi would only react if the pain was excessive.
“Oh right! The man you were looking for, the one with a scar on his left eye, I’ve finally found him!” Litelli said in a loud voice, trying to pull the other’s attention from his wound.
Litelli was proud of the information he had obtained. He had spent a large amount of effort before he’d finally found his target.
“He’s an assassin with the code-name Left Eye. His identity was kept unusually secretive, but I dug it all out! He’s the royal family’s personal assassin. That’s why it was so hard to find him; he was living in the palace in the first place!”
Litelli was extremely proud of his report, but Yin Qie Zi wasn’t all that surprised. He had already guessed that Cas was somehow involved with the royal family. When he noticed that Litelli was waiting for praise, he couldn’t help but destroy the other’s delusions. “I know. I saw him last night when I infiltrated the palace to see the Leaves. He’s protecting them.”
An earth-shattering expression appeared on Litelli’s face when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s words. Even as indifferent as he was, Yin Qie Zi was slightly sorry that he had ruined the other’s mood. He quickly changed the topic.
“Owen and Mila are acting extremely strange towards me. They are treating me differently than a friend. They’ve provided my own private room in their house, and they also let me, a stranger, push Mila around in her wheelchair. Just recently, they even said that they would gift a Leaf to me. Exactly what are they trying to do?”
Litelli broke into laughter at his master’s words. He said while wrapping a new bandage around Yin Qie Zi’s shoulder, “That’s simple! The beautiful Mila wants to marry you!”
Yin Qie Zi’s eyes widened in surprise. “Mila wants to marry me? But, but…” After thinking for a long while, he finally said, “I’m not human.”
“Why does that matter? It’s fine as long as you are ‘male,’ ” Litelli said while laughing.
“…I can’t be counted as male.”
“Shut it!” Yin Qie Zi stood up abruptly.
Litelli quickly slapped a hand over his mouth, but continued talking nonetheless, “I didn’t say anything, nothing at all. I didn’t say your name!”
Yin Qie Zi’s anger dissipated quickly. Regaining his calm manner, he said lightly, “I don’t have the sexual characteristics of a human. I can’t marry her.”
“In any case, you don’t plan on waiting that long, right? Didn’t you already give those bottles of medicine to that boy?” Litelli said softly, “Being in a relationship with Miss Mila can help with your plans for revenge, so why don’t you do it?”
Yin Qie Zi’s expression changed and he burst out, “I don’t plan to deceive her, her…” What was it exactly called?
“Deceive her feelings!” Litelli couldn’t bear to listen to him anymore.
“Right, deceive her feelings,” Yin Qie Zi repeated awkwardly after him.
Litelli said loudly, “You’re already deceiving her feelings! Or are you going to come clean to her? You want to kill her and her twin brother! Why are you afraid of something like this?”
Yin Qie Zi frowned and gazed suspiciously at his servant. Litelli had always been opposed to his plans for revenge, though he had never voiced it clearly. But Yin Qie Zi knew Litelli disapproved the actions he had taken to enact his revenge. So now, why was Litelli trying to make him take advantage of another person’s feelings? This was somewhat strange.
“What are you planning?” Yin Qie Zi coldly asked.
Litelli’s eyes widened in response to the question. His eyes were already big, but now they looked like two big eggs embedded in his small head. He protested loudly, “I’m not planning anything! You already plan on killing her; do you also plan on breaking up with her and then killing her? That is too cruel!”
Yin Qie Zi stared blankly at Litelli.
“The least you could do is let her live happily for these last few months!” Litelli shouted in a sharp voice. “Don’t tell me you can’t accomplish even this? You can’t be that heartless, right?”
Yin Qie Zi stayed silent, but Litelli continued shouting. He finally said frostily, “Shut up. Bring me my clothes.”
Litelli closed his mouth with an aggrieved expression. He went to the wardrobe in search of clothes and pulled out a luxurious set of clothing. It was a set of formal attire made from beige silk, decorated with many copper red threads wound in complicated patterns along the borders. It was the outfit Owen had lent Yin Qie Zi for the birthday party a few days ago.
Theoretically, the outfit had been lent to him, but Yin Qie Zi knew that it was meant to be given to him. After all, the clothes suited him too well. Owen was much taller than him, so he wouldn’t be able to fit in those clothes. Most likely, it had been custom-made for him. Because of that, he wasn’t especially determined to return the clothes to Owen.
He felt a headache coming on, however, when he looked at the luxurious outfit. He burst out, “Find some normal clothes for me.”
“Aren’t you going to the largest auction of the year?” Litelli widened his egg-sized eyes. Once again, he began to argue noisily, “It would be embarrassing if you dressed too shabbily! It’s fine if you get embarrassed, but what would you do if you humiliate Miss Mila?”
Yin Qie Zi’s headache became even more painful when he heard the clamor Litelli was making. “Shut up! I’ll wear it, so go get me a ribbon!”
Litelli closed his mouth in satisfaction. He went and picked out a hair ribbon that most suited the outfit. The copper red ribbon was a good match, though it was still a bit too simple. If the ribbon had some gold embroidery on it, then it would match the gorgeous clothes perfectly.
“What are you thinking about?”
Litellli started and turned to face Yin Qie Zi’s wary eyes. He quickly handed the hair ribbon over and said innocently, “Nothing! I was contemplating whether this ribbon is good enough and whether you liked it. Or would that red one be better—”
“It’s only a ribbon.” Yin Qie Zi impatiently cut Litelli off. He took the ribbon and let his hair tie itself.
He then hesitated, but ordered Litelli, “Go buy some clothes for me today. Ones that are suitable for formal occasions, but also for going out.”
Litelli’s eyes immediately brightened at Yin Qie Zi’s order. He quickly nodded. “No problem. Master, you can trust in me. The clothes I buy will definitely suit you the best!”
Litelli was never this obedient when he had actual business to do, but he couldn’t be more compliant when it came to little things like buying clothes. Yin Qie Zi was left speechless by Litelli’s excitement.
“What color would you like your clothes to be? I think the beige you have on is pretty good, but grey would also suit you well. What about forest green? There’s also purple—”
“Yes!” Then let’s buy an outfit in every color!
Yin Qie Zi looked up and down at Litelli, who appeared more cheerful than usual. Yin Qie Zi became very skeptical at this. He couldn’t resist ordering, “I’m leaving first. After you’re done buying clothes, go make some healing and support elixirs.”
Contrary to expectations, Litelli didn’t raise a single complaint at the dull and tedious job. Instead, he agreed readily.
Filled with suspicion, Yin Qie Zi walked out of the room, aiming to meet up with Owen and Mila.
Along the way, he passed by many servants and guards. Their glances lingered on him, some stunned by his appearance, and others mistrustful. He wanted to turn around and go back to his room to change, but he suppressed the urge. Yin Qie Zi picked up his pace and walked quickly to the foyer.
Mila and Fenny were already waiting inside the foyer. Owen was never late, but he was never early either. Evidently, there were still a few minutes before their prearranged meeting time.
Yin Qie Zi called out. Mila immediately turned her head around. She looked surprised, but then she revealed a brilliant smile. She didn’t bother hiding the pleasure in her eyes and kept glancing over Yin Qie Zi.
Her direct appreciation made Yin Qie Zi’s face heat up. He quickly explained, “I don’t have any other formal attire, so I can only wear this one.”
“You look very nice in this outfit!” Mila smiled and said, “This style suits you extremely well, though it is a little extravagant. But many members of the aristocracy dress extravagantly.”
When he saw Owen walking over dressed in a simple, blue military uniform, Yin Qie Zi once again regretted that he hadn’t insisted on wearing something normal. His clothes were more luxurious than that of the Warlord’s children. No, that wasn’t right. He remembered the last time he had seen Prince Edward, even the prince himself hadn’t been wearing something this extravagant. So he was dressed more extravagantly than the prince himself. If it was like this, what would other people think of him?
“I’ll go and change my clothes,” Yin Qie Zi said uneasily.
“Why do you need to change?” The moment Owen arrived, he heard Yin Qie Zi say he was going to change. He looked at his friend’s outfit. Wasn’t that his present? He quickly asked the question, thinking that there was something faulty with the clothes.
“You…” Yin Qie Zi stared at Owen, and then burst out, “Even Prince Edward doesn’t dress as extravagantly as I am right now!”
Mila and Owen shared a glance. Seeing that Yin Qie Zi was truly going to change, Owen quickly explained, “Wait, it’s because we are a military family! Besides military-styled formal attire, I’m not allowed to wear anything else. My father won’t agree to it. Prince Edward also deliberately dresses plain and simple. He says it’s because he wants to create an image of a hardworking and citizen-loving prince. But when it comes to a truly important occasion, he couldn’t be more extravagant! Last time when we went to welcome the Danyas, his clothes were practically dripping with gemstones!”
Yin Qie Zi looked skeptically at Owen.
Owen immediately made a vow. “It’s true, I swear on it. Otherwise, I can bring you to see Edward’s wardrobe and jewel chests some other day.”
You’re talking about the wardrobe and jewel chests of the First Prince! They probably aren’t circuses for people to come see and admire, right? Yin Qie Zi was at a loss of how to respond.
“Forget it. Let’s go!”
Yin Qie Zi decided to give up on arguing. After hesitating a moment, he walked to Mila and grabbed the handles of her wheelchair. Though nobody came up to challenge him, he still politely asked, “Is it alright if I push your wheelchair?”
Mila was startled. Unfathomably, her face felt a bit hot. She couldn’t even find the power to speak, so she nodded her head slightly in assent.
“Are we walking or taking the carriage?” Yin Qie Zi turned around and asked.
“The auction venue is pretty far away, so we’ve prepared a carriage. It’s waiting outside,” Fenny replied.
Yin Qie Zi nodded. Without consulting anyone, he pushed Mila out the door and to the carriage. He then lifted her out of her wheelchair. Mila let out a shout of alarm. He immediately stopped and peered down at her. He questioned puzzledly, “What’s wrong? Are you uncomfortable being held like this?”
“N-no, I’m not… It’s no-nothing…” Mila responded in a small voice.
Yin Qie Zi nodded. Holding Mila, he stepped into the carriage.
The two people who had been standing aside widened their eyes upon the scene. Owen turned to Fenny and quietly asked, “I was only late for five minutes, right? What is this degree of development in their relationship? Why does it feel like five days have passed since I saw them last? …No, Yin Qie Zi’s personality is quite cold. This amount of development has to have taken five months, right?”
Fenny bent slightly and whispered back, “Young Master, you’re the one who needs five months to develop a relationship to this stage. Miss Mila only needs five minutes.”
Yin Qie Zi stuck his head out of the carriage and called out, “Aren’t the two of you coming?”
Owen and Fenny jumped in surprise and quickly replied in unison, “Yes, we are!”
After all four of them were seated inside the carriage, Owen looked left and right, his eyes brightening when he saw that Yin Qie Zi had chosen to sit beside Mila. It was a four-person carriage and it just so happened that they had two women and two men. The most appropriate way for them to sit should have been for the men to take one side and the women the other. Though now, Yin Qie Zi and Mila were sitting on the same side.
This was inconceivable! Owen couldn’t even believe it. Did he really just miss out on five minutes?
Mila was also somewhat surprised. In her case though, it was because Yin Qie Zi’s movements were that of a perfect gentleman. Nothing ambiguous could be seen in his actions. But as she didn’t know Yin Qie Zi as well as Owen did, she quickly shook off her surprise. She started chatting casually, “Yin Qie Zi, have you ever gone to an auction before?”
Yin Qie Zi nodded and said, “I have been to many. There are many special spirits that are hard to get a hold of, so I usually go and try my luck at auctions.”
“Then are you lucky?”
Yin Qie Zi nodded again. “Normally, my luck is pretty good. The special spirits I usually buy aren’t popular merchandise, so their prices aren’t all that high. Like the powder of grazing beasts, it’s pretty cheap.”
Mila had never heard of this special spirit. She curiously asked, “What do you use the powder for?”
“It can be made into a strong coating film.”
“Then what do you use the film for?” Mila continued to ask confusedly.
“…There are many uses for it. For example, you can coat furniture with it. It’ll give the furniture a shine and prevent them from becoming dirty.”
Yin Qie Zi was finding it a bit hard to continue. Truthfully, he primarily coated his hair with the film to prevent people from touching it. But even when his hair was coated with a protective film, he still disliked people touching it. At least it was better than having people touching his hair directly.
“So that’s how it is!” Mila happily said, “Then I’ll definitely have to order some from you.”
“I can bring some for you to try first…”
“Should I have not come at all?” Owen asked Fenny quietly. “I suddenly feel like I’m in the way, like a third wheel.”
Fenny nodded in agreement. “You definitely are in the way, like a third wheel.”
“…You are the same!”
Hearing Owen’s words, Yin Qie Zi began to feel like he was focusing too much attention on Mila. He quickly turned to look at Owen and tried to strike up a conversation. “How come Yehv isn’t coming today?”
Owen let out an “oh” and explained, “My father had some work for him to do.”
“Work? Isn’t he only supposed to attend to you?”
A hesitant expression came on Owen’s face when he heard the question. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but was holding himself back. “That…”
“Is it something you can’t say?” Yin Qie Zi said with downcast eyes, “Then don’t force yourself. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Mila opened her mouth and explained, “Yehv was a subordinate of my father’s in the past. He was injured in the war and ended up being in poor health for a long time. Because of that, my father made him attend to Owen instead. Yehv practically raised Owen himself.”
War? Yehv had been onto the battlefield? Yin Qie Zi became somewhat panicked. If Yehv had been to war and was also a subordinate of West, then how could he not know about “Gong Hua?”
He continued acting calm even in his panic. In the guise of chatting, he began probing the situation. “So he had fought in the war before? He must have been a great help to Warlord Paladin. Isn’t it too much to reduce someone like him to a mere butler?”
Owen nodded and said, “That is true. At that time, Yehv was under a separate division of the army. He wasn’t a soldier under my father’s command. Moreover, he had gotten injured heavily not long after the war started, so he actually didn’t participate in many of the battles. My father making him take care of me is another way of letting him recuperate.”
Even if Yehv hadn’t participated in many battles, shouldn’t West have told him about the things that had happened back then? Then why had Yehv shown no reaction even though he had revealed he was a Flower? Could this be a trap?
“Yin Qie Zi, what are you thinking about?”
Yin Qie Zi looked up in shock and saw the other three staring at him. He calmly replied, “I was thinking of what kind of special spirits I’m missing from my stock, so I can bid on them later.”
Owen couldn’t resist complaining, “You are still thinking about spirit binder stuff? Can’t you think about the fact that we are going to be buying a Leaf later on?”
Yin Qie Zi stayed silent. He didn’t know whether he should accept a Leaf as a gift. Judging from his current situation, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to take care of a Leaf at all. But if someone else bought the Leaf, how would they treat it…
“Are you worried that the Leaf will expose your identity?” Mila softly asked.
Yin Qie Zi hesitated. It wasn’t because of that, but he still nodded in response. Otherwise, he’d have to find some other reason to explain. Besides, after Mila’s reminder, he truly began to worry about the problem of being exposed again.
Mila quickly consoled him, “Don’t worry, humans aren’t knowledgeable about the Leaf Tribe. Not many know of the Flower’s existence. Even if the Leaf exposes you in front of everyone, probably none would understand.”
Hearing those words, Yin Qie Zi’s heart skipped a beat. Perhaps West didn’t know that he was a Flower? If it was like that, then Yehv wouldn’t know either. That was probably why Yehv paid no attention to his true identity. If that was the case, then that truly was good news!
“I think we should wait and see after we arrive at the venue. I don’t know how…I should face them.” Yin Qie Zi paused and said uneasily, “If I don’t want to buy the Leaf, then would it be possible…”
Yin Qie Zi couldn’t continue. He was the Guardian Flower and should be protecting the Leaves. Yet he had looked on at the Leaves locked up in the prison without lifting a finger. He had even tossed aside the Leaf he could have rescued. He’d already said that he had nothing to do with the Leaves since they had abandoned him. However, in his heart, he was incapable of acting like he was totally unrelated.
Yin Qie Zi looked up to see Mila smiling at him. The golden-haired girl had an oval-shaped face. Her cheeks were white and tender, and her bright and intelligent eyes were filled with smiles. He felt comfortable just by looking at her gentle, smiling face. More importantly, she didn’t ask anything else. Yin Qie Zi was relieved and gave out sincere words of thanks. “Thank you.”
On the side, Owen once again said quietly to Fenny, “I truly feel like we are in the way.”
Fenny gave him a stare. She lifted a finger to her mouth and gestured at Owen to be quiet. She then lowered her head and continued knitting.
Owen felt as if he had been wronged. “You can knit, but what can I do? I can’t possibly practice sword-fighting in the carriage, right?”
Proofreaders: PiKairi, Dinoj
Is an assassin’s training hard?
Maybe? Quite a few died during training, though I don’t remember the exact number.
In any case, the only thing I want to do is kill you!
A human can’t beat someone as strong as you. Even the harshest of trainings won’t be enough!
I… Can I really kill you?
But I have to; I must…
I will definitely kill you! Gong Hua!
“Owen brought me along with him to ask for help from West. At the time, West was part of the military, so Owen and I ended up joining the war. We went around the battlefields killing Danyas until the war was almost over.”
At that, Yin Qie Zi smiled scornfully and said, “You know how good I am at killing. Killing ten thousand Danyas wasn’t a problem for me at all.”
“Owen let you kill?” Cas narrowed his eyes in slight disbelief. He had been very young back then. Many years had also passed; thus many things were a blur to him. However, Owen had been his teacher. He still had an impression of Owen’s character.
Yin Qie Zi lightly replied, “Owen wanted to atone for his crimes. He wanted to redeem himself by joining the war and demonstrating meritorious conduct. He hoped our arrest warrant would be revoked because of it.”
Truthfully, at that time, he didn’t understand what “atoning for one’s sins” meant. It was simply because Owen had wanted to join the war. Since he followed Owen everywhere, he also followed him onto the battlefield. To ensure Owen’s safety, he always killed off any enemies that came near Owen. Unwittingly, the two of them had become a lethal weapon in West’s arsenal. They were sent wherever the army was having trouble fighting.
Although he said that he had killed around ten thousand people, it was impossible to count the actual number.
He had even mistakenly killed a Leaf. A female Leaf, who had a head of sea blue hair, named Aquamarine.
He was her Guardian Flower, yet he had killed her. Instead, it was a Danya, their enemy, who kept on swearing he would take revenge for her. At that point, Yin Qie Zi still hadn’t lost his powers. That Danya who went by the name Indigo was strong, but he wasn’t strong enough to defeat a physical spirit. Yet whenever Yin Qie Zi saw the other, he would run away.
Due to that, Indigo became the Danyas’ greatest weapon in dealing with the Flower.
He would go onto the battlefield, but whenever Indigo came chasing after him, he would run away. Those kinds of absurd encounters lasted until the war ended. Since then, he had never come across Indigo again.
Facing Cas, he gave a clear account of when he had killed the Leaf. It was to ensure that Cas wouldn’t use the Leaf Tribe to threaten him. After all, his hands were already stained with the blood of a Leaf.
Just when Cas was about to make a sarcastic remark, shouts of alarm unexpectedly erupted in the air. Both of them froze in shock, and then quickly ran over to the prison’s window. But because the window was too small and the lighting too dim, they couldn’t see much of anything besides a few moving shadows.
Cas took out a key, turned, and inserted it into the wall. He then gave a kick and a piece of the prison’s sturdy wall relented. Yin Qie Zi stared in surprise at the other’s actions, but then noticed that the wall had given way to a secret door.
Cas bent down, but before he went in, he snarled at Yin Qie Zi, “Stay here and watch the door. Don’t let any Leaves or anyone else leave! You know what will happen if you do!”
His words surprised Yin Qie Zi. He had thought that Cas had merely been waiting here for him. Looking at the situation now though, it seemed the other had been assigned the duty of guarding the Leaves. Cas… Exactly what was he?
Noises of an uproar drifted out of the prison. Most of the noise was made from the clashing of weapons, but an occasional shout was mixed in there. To Yin Qie Zi, those voices couldn’t be any more familiar. Leaves had higher voices than humans. It wasn’t all that difficult to distinguish them.
Should he go in and see what was going on? Yin Qie Zi was somewhat undecided. Then suddenly, someone scrambled their way out of the secret door. He’d thought the person was Cas; he certainly didn’t expect it to be a Leaf, a female one.
Yin Qie Zi stared at her. Normally, it would be quite difficult to tell whether a Leaf was male or female. Regardless of their sex, Leaves all had a delicate and fragile physique. Distinguishing the sex of a Leaf was definitely trickier than distinguishing the sex of a human. From the first glance however, Yin Qie Zi knew the Leaf was female. After all, he had once sat underneath the Spirit Tree and watched Leaves pass back and forth before him. He had watched them for at least a few decades.
The Leaf was slender. Her face was bright and clear, so much that it appeared she was glowing. She also had a head of lustrous, red hair. Her appearance wasn’t all that different from the Leaves in Yin Qie Zi’s memories: beautiful, delicate, and full of color.
The red-haired Leaf was shocked when she saw Yin Qie Zi standing outside. She hadn’t expected someone to be guarding the door. When she got a clearer look at Yin Qie Zi though, she became doubtful. The other was merely a boy; he didn’t look like a guard at all.
The Leaf stared at Yin Qie Zi, sizing him up and trying to guess his identity. On the other hand, Yin Qie Zi was at a complete loss of what to do.
Should he stop her from running away? He then recalled Cas’ warning and his heart sank. He growled out, “The palace is heavily guarded. You won’t be able to run away. Return to the prison!”
The red-haired Leaf did not run away, but she also did not return to the prison. She merely stared at Yin Qie Zi in a daze, or to be more accurate, she stared at his hair with a puzzled expression on her face.
“You—” She started speaking.
At that moment, Yin Qie Zi quickly stepped up and pulled the Leaf over to his side. She was startled by his sudden action, but then noticed that a masked-man dressed in black had appeared at the spot where she had been previously standing.
The masked-man had his sword raised and was about to strike down the Leaf, but unexpectedly, she had been pulled away at the last minute. He quickly changed his target, deciding to take care of the one who had stolen his prey first.
Yin Qie Zi pushed the Leaf aside. He pulled out a short sword and blocked the masked-man’s fierce attack. He applied pressure down the length of his opponent’s blade and nimbly flicked it aside. Not wasting a second, Yin Qie Zi immediately stepped forward and aimed a stab at the other’s chest. Unfortunately, the masked-man swiftly dodged the attack. Yin Qie Zi’s sword merely grazed his shoulder and didn’t cause any major injury.
Seeing this, Yin Qie Zi became slightly irritated. If his own shoulder injury wasn’t affecting his speed, his attack surely would’ve hit the mark.
When he saw that his opponent was quite strong, the masked-man, disregarding his own safety, directly turned to attack the Leaf standing off to the side.
Despite the masked-man’s fearless move, Yin Qie Zi was even faster. He slashed down on the man’s sword and at the same time, analyzed the components of the spirits that made up the blade. As the two of them traded blows, Yin Qie Zi went about breaking the chains that held together the other’s sword. Finally, he forcefully hacked down. The man’s sword split apart with a crack. The blade fell onto the ground, immediately shattering into thousands of silver pieces.
The masked-man’s eyes widened; he couldn’t believe someone who was this adept at breaking spirit chains existed.
His shock gave Yin Qie Zi an opportunity; he immediately swung his short sword up to the man’s neck. The edge of his sword was pressed right against the man’s throat, so that if he dared to move the slightest bit, his neck would instantly be cut.
What if the masked-man stayed still? What should he do then? Yin Qie Zi wrinkled his brows, but he didn’t have to worry for long. His opponent suddenly stepped forward, unhesitatingly slicing his own neck.
Yin Qie Zi stared down at the body that was still twitching incessantly on the ground. He slowly pulled his sword back, his heart perturbed. It was rare to see a suicidal soldier who would kill himself upon the failure of his mission. The people behind soldiers like those were true dignitaries.
“Yin Qie Zi!”
He turned in the direction of the voice and saw Cas coming out of the secret door. An angry expression was on Cas’ face, but when he saw the body on the ground and the Leaf standing off to the side, most of his anger dissipated. The corners of his lips lifted up in a contemplative smile.
“I didn’t imagine that you would actually prevent a Leaf from escaping.”
At Cas’ words, a wave of anger rose up in Yin Qie Zi. He almost yelled out “The one who asked me to prevent the Leaves from escaping was you!” No matter what though, he didn’t dare to enrage Cas. If Cas exposed his true identity, then his plan for revenge would be all for naught. He could only clench his fist and resist from giving into his anger.
Speaking of identity, Yin Qie Zi abruptly remembered his question on Cas’ identity. He asked bewildered, “Why are you protecting the Leaves?”
Cas frowned when he heard the question, but quickly relaxed his expression and lazily replied, “I’m doing it so I can pay for my meals. My employer told me to guard these slaves closely. I’m not allowed to let them escape, and of course, I’m also not allowed to let them die.”
When he finished speaking, he grabbed the red-haired Leaf’s arm. Without an ounce of care, he roughly pulled her to his side. The Leaf gave a shout of pain and staggered over to Cas. The sound of metal on metal sliced the air.
At that moment, Yin Qie Zi noticed that the Leaf’s ankles were shackled. There was no way she could have escaped. Even if he had decided to help her out, there was no way he could have escaped the heavily guarded palace together with a Leaf in shackles.
Cas brusquely tried to shove the Leaf back through the secret door. She grabbed onto the stone ledge and refused to let go. With great effort, she turned to look at Yin Qie Zi and asked in panic, “Please, can I ask—”
The Leaf appeared extremely frantic, but Yin Qie Zi was even more frantic inside. He didn’t know whether Leaves were capable of recognizing him. Twenty years ago, Aquamarine had immediately recognized him. He didn’t know whether it was because she had the ability to identify Flowers, or if she had simply recognized him because she had seen him sitting underneath the Tree before.
Before she could finish her words however, Cas kicked her through the door. Aside from letting out a groan of pain, the Leaf had no time to ask any questions.
Hearing the Leaf’s groan, Yin Qie Zi’s hand tightened around his short sword. He coldly stated, “The one you want to take revenge on is me; there is no need to harm the Leaves. I no longer have anything to do with them. I’ve even killed one of them before!”
Cas glanced over at Yin Qie Zi a few times and let out a cold laugh. “You should look at your own expression before you speak. Your ability to lie is worse than it was twenty years ago.”
Yin Qie Zi turned his head away, refusing to argue with the other. He then noticed that he couldn’t hear the sounds of fighting from inside the prison anymore. “Are all of the assassins dead? Are there any left for questioning?”
Cas’ lips lifted in a smile. “Are you that worried about these Leaves? Don’t worry; I’m not the only one who’s looking after them. There are 35 guards, 30 spiritmancers, and 5 spirit charmers situated around here.” Intentionally or otherwise, Cas especially listed off the number of guards assigned around the prison. It was a number Yin Qie Zi definitely couldn’t defeat by himself. Or at least, a number he couldn’t defeat after having lost his powers.
“Can I ask…”
Yin Qie Zi turned in the direction of the voice. The red-haired Leaf had grabbed onto the metal bars that barricaded the prison’s small window and was peering out at him. With a doubtful expression, she asked, “Your hair color is silvery-purple. Do you have any relations to the Leaf Lord—”
“I’m completely unrelated to the Leaf Tribe.” Yin Qie Zi immediately cut her off.
The Leaf stared in surprise, an expression of disbelief on her face. Yin Qie Zi felt her reaction was a bit strange, because as far as he knew, the Leaf Tribe was not one to doubt people. Then again, Yin Qie Zi had forgotten almost everything he once knew about the Leaf Tribe. Most of what he knew now was what he had heard from humans. For example, Mila was the one who had told him that that the Leaves’ staple food was the fruit leaf. Due to that, he wasn’t quite sure if Leaves were capable of suspecting others.
“Hahaha! I can’t believe you’re even stupider than you were twenty years ago.” Cas burst into laughter, and then said in mockery, “She used the Leaf language to ask you that question and then you even replied to her in the same tongue. Even the dumbest Leaf wouldn’t believe you!”
Yin Qie Zi’s eyes widened in shock, finally noticing his mistake. Except the words were already out, and there was no way he could take them back.
The red-haired Leaf stared at Yin Qie Zi. She did not question his answer, but her expression was one of complete doubt.
Cas smirked, his eyes shifting from the Leaf to Yin Qie Zi and back again. This made Yin Qie Zi extremely worried, he was afraid Cas would expose his identity as a Flower. He quickly said, “It’s about time for me to leave. If I don’t leave soon, morning will come, and then I won’t be able to leave.”
Although he said that, would Cas actually allow him to leave? Cas had said that he would make him experience pain and suffering for the rest of his life, and at the moment, there was nothing more painful to him than being exposed as a Flower in front of the Leaf.
At that thought, Yin Qie Zi looked at Cas in alarm. The latter, however, only coldly remarked, “What are you looking at? If you’re going to leave, then get lost.”
Yin Qie Zi stared in surprised at the other. That was the best answer he could’ve asked for. Without any further delay, he immediately turned to leave, lest Cas changed his mind.
Hearing the Leaf’s plea, Yin Qie Zi’s footsteps slowed. He wanted to turn around and take a final look at her, but stopped himself before he could fully turn around. He then left without turning his head back.
“Shut up! If you call after him one more time, I’ll go and beat up every one of your tribespeople,” Cas snarled.
While Cas didn’t know how Yin Qie Zi had lost his powers, it was best if he gave the other no opportunity to regain them. For example, the cries of the Leaf asking for help from the Flower could possibly be one such opportunity.
Cas was also knowledgeable on how to threaten Leaves. Rather than saying he would beat her, it was better to say that he would beat her tribespeople. However, these Leaves were peace offerings under strict protection, so he couldn’t actually lay a hand on them. However, there was no harm in voicing the occasional threat. If he truly wanted to beat them, he would pick a male Leaf and hit him where it couldn’t be seen. Even then, it wouldn’t result in any heavy consequences.
When she heard that her tribesmen would suffer, the Leaf immediately closed her mouth, afraid to utter even a single word. She glanced over at Cas. His ferocious expression frightened her so much that she ducked back inside the prison, afraid to look out the window again.
She rested her back against the wall and slowly slid down to sit. Her head of red hair was made into a mess by the friction, but she paid it no attention. All she had on her mind at the moment was the person who had just left.
That head of silvery-purple hair… Originally, she had thought that he was someone the Leaf Lord had sent to save them. It appeared now though, that she was wrong. She couldn’t help but feel extremely disappointed.
Yan Er raised her head to look. It was . The two of them looked very similar, both had red hair. If speaking of bloodlines, then Hong Yan was Yan Er’s older brother. The Leaf Tribe, however, didn’t have any concept of family hierarchy. Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters all called each other by name, regardless of their seniority.
“No. Compared to our current situation, how could those assassins even be scary?” Yan Er then said somewhat disheartened, “I saw someone who had silvery-purple hair. I’d thought he was somehow related to the Leaf Lord, but it turns out I was wrong.”
Hong Yan patted her shoulder and said, “What does it matter? Soon enough, we’ll probably all return to the Tree’s side.”
The word “death” did not exist in the Leaf Tribe’s language. They believed that when a Leaf died, they would return to the Spirit Tree, becoming its branches and leaves. They referred to this cycle as “return.”
Yan Er became even more troubled at her brother’s words.
“Then why haven’t we returned yet? The Continent of Xi Zong no longer has a Spirit Tree and we can’t walk or live on land without a Tree. We could probably have supported ourselves for a year or two, but twenty years have already passed since then. Everyone has gradually become weaker over the years, but no one has returned to the Tree’s side. How is this possible?”
“I don’t know.” Hong Yan was also puzzled. It was probably more accurate to say that every single Leaf still in Xi Zong at the moment was puzzled. Moreover, they were currently caught in a helpless situation. They had no idea when they would return to the Tree’s side, nor what to do at the moment. They wanted to escape from their future as slaves, but they knew that even if they did escape, sooner or later, they would be caught again by humans.
Even though Hong Yan was at a complete loss himself, he still patted Yan Er’s shoulder reassuringly. He consoled her, “Don’t be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid of returning to the Tree’s side, but not knowing when it will happen makes me…” Yan Er didn’t know how to describe her current feelings. It was rare for a Leaf to feel that sort of emotion.
“Restless and apprehensive?”
Yan Er nodded in response and added, “And I don’t feel a true desire to escape. Even if I do, soon after, I will probably have to return to the Tree’s side.”
Hong Yan nodded and looked around at his tribesmen. Most of them had on vacant expressions. Perhaps he also had the same expression. Vacant and at a loss, the only thing they could do was continue to wait; yet they didn’t even know what they were waiting for.
Who was it that wanted to kill them? Yan Er suddenly thought of the question, and then another: Would they come again?
She pondered the matter. Why would it matter if those assassins came again? Would they be ruining anything? Maybe they would return to the Tree’s side tomorrow, maybe…
On the way back, Yin Qie Zi had wanted to quickly return to the Warlord’s estate, but there were more guards in the palace than there had been when he came in. It was probably due to the sudden appearance of assassins at the prison.
The heavy security forced him to stop numerous times on his way out of the palace. Every single time he stopped, he had to find a hiding place, either squeezing between hidden breaks in the walls or hiding behind the backs of pillars. The slow pace made him agitated, but there was no way he could speed up.
Using the buildings’ shadows, he finally managed to return to the sewer mouth he had used to infiltrate the palace. Just when he was about to jump in, he saw some people walking his way. Yin Qie Zi quickly hid in the walls’ shadows and quieted his breathing.
As the group of people came closer, their voices also became clearer. Yin Qie Zi found that he didn’t understand what they were talking about. The language they were speaking in wasn’t the human language, nor was it the Leaf language. He couldn’t resist sneaking a glance at them out of the corner of his eye. There were approximately six of them… Wait a second!
Yin Qie Zi stared in surprise, finding the stature of the group to be somewhat strange. They all seemed, seemed a bit too tall.
As the six of them were around the same height, at a distance, there looked to be nothing strange about them. As they got closer though, Yin Qie Zi clearly saw that something was off. The tallest among the group had to be at least over two meters while the shortest was around 180 centimeters. Yin Qie Zi heard a female voice among the group and deduced that the shortest one was a woman. A woman who was 180 centimeters tall?
Right, they had to be Danyas!
Yin Qie Zi moved to hide behind a pillar and snuck a few more glances at the group. Most of them had white hair, streaked with other colors. As it was night, he couldn’t get a clear look at them. Moreover, they weren’t speaking the human language, so he didn’t understand them either. Their height and hair color, however, definitely confirmed his suspicions that they were Danyas.
What are Danyas doing here? Yin Qie Zi frowned, but understood after thinking carefully. These Danyas were probably emissaries who were here to collect the peace offerings.
The Danyas walked by Yin Qie Zi, just ten steps away from the latter. Yin Qie Zi saw that two of the Danyas were women, the other four men. Most of them had white hair streaked mainly with gold, but there were a small amount of other colors mixed in. One of the men had only gold streaks in his hair; with none of the other colors mixed in.
Was he Gold of the Four Colors? Yin Qie Zi frowned at his discovery.
At that moment, the Danya with the purest hair stopped in his steps and looked left and right. His companions also paused. They looked at him in confusion; one of the women even opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but he lifted a hand and waved her question away.
He had spoken in the human language, appearing very fluent in it and almost had no accent. However, Yin Qie Zi did not do as the other asked. Instead, he slowed his breathing even more and plastered himself against the wall, ensuring that there wouldn’t be the slightest chance of him being discovered.
Jin Qie Er frowned, but couldn’t find any visible problems even after looking left and right. Finally he turned and spoke with his companions. The group of Danyas continued walking and left.
Only when he couldn’t see them anymore, did Yin Qie Zi dare to step out of his hiding place. He turned to look in the direction in which the group had left. That Jin Qie Er probably wasn’t one of the Four Colors. If he were one of the Colors, he would’ve referred to himself as Gold. It was like how that Danya with blue-streaked hair had always called himself Indigo, never using another name.
If that man wasn’t Gold, then Indigo wouldn’t have come, right?
Inexplicably, Yin Qie Zi gave a sigh of relief. He finally slipped into the sewer and swam out of the royal palace. Without stopping to rest, he ran for the Warlord’s mansion. By the time he returned, the night sky was already starting to lighten. It was about time for him to have breakfast with Mila.
He found a hidden corner and wrung out his clothes. He then went into the mansion through the front door, as if he had nothing to hide. In any case, he was currently a guest. He wasn’t worried if he would be seized or have his way blocked. This was much safer than climbing the walls anyways. They did say that the Warlord’s estate was harder to break into than the royal palace.
The palace occupied a large expanse of land, so not every block was heavily guarded. On the other hand, the Warlord’s residence occupied a much smaller piece of land. The Warlord himself was also the head of a spiritmancer regiment. Even Yin Qie Zi, who had scouted the Warlord’s residence for many years, didn’t know how many spiritmancers the estate housed.
Although it was already time for breakfast, Yin Qie Zi headed towards his room instead. He had only wrung his clothes out enough to prevent them from dripping. Under the dusky sky, the guards at the door most likely hadn’t noticed that his clothes were wet. However, Mila would certainly notice that something was off, so he had to change his clothes first. He probably would have to change the bandage on his shoulder too. Due to the fighting earlier and also the wet bandage, his wound was starting to ache again.
When he opened the door to his room, Yin Qie Zi froze in shock. Owen was sitting on his bed, facing the door, looking like he was waiting for him to return. Owen’s expression was also extremely ominous, appearing as if he had some business to settle.
“Ah, so you finally returned! Then I’ll go back to my room to sleep.” Seeing that the situation was about to go rancid, Litelli quickly scampered out of the room without bothering to explain the current circumstances to Yin Qie Zi.
Though even without an explanation, Yin Qie Zi more or less understood. Most likely, news of the uproar at the palace had already spread. He really had wasted too much in coming back. Owen probably suspected that he was the one who had broken into the palace and came to check in on him. In the end, he was still a Flower, the guardian of the Leaf Tribe.
“Where did you go?” Owen asked coldly.
Yin Qie Zi wanted to lie and say he went back to his house to grab some medicine, but he didn’t even have a single jar on his person to back up his lie. Plus, his clothes were still wet.
“You didn’t go to the palace did you? We heard it had been attacked, my father’s already on his way there.” Owen suppressed his rising anger and asked, “Were you the one who attacked the palace?”
“If it were me, do you think I would still be standing here in front of you?” Yin Qie Zi snappily answered.
Owen abruptly stood up and growled, “Who knows? Maybe you had an accomplice? Maybe you’re actually stronger than you’ve led me to think? Maybe you’ve never actually lost your powers? In any case, you refuse to tell me anything!”
Exactly like Owen described, Yin Qie Zi quieted down, refusing to say anything. When he saw that Owen’s expression was worsening with no signs of improvement, he finally opened his mouth to explain. “It really wasn’t me. I only wanted to see them. I didn’t disturb anyone else; otherwise, I wouldn’t have had such an easy escape.”
Hearing that, Owen’s face relaxed a bit. He then suspiciously asked, “Then did you see the attackers?”
Yin Qie Zi hesitated for a moment, but decided to tell the truth. “Yes I did. I even defeated one of them.”
Owen’s eyes brightened at those words and he quickly asked, “Was he strong? But your wound hasn’t healed right?”
Yin Qie Zi pondered over the question. “If using humans as the standard, then his strength would be in upper middle third. Also, he was a suicidal soldier. He killed himself the minute his mission failed.”
Owen stared in surprise at him. “Mission? Did they want to save the Leaves?”
Yin Qie Zi furrowed his brows and replied, “No, looking at the situation, I’d say that they wanted to kill the Leaves.” Did any of the Leaves get injured during the confusion? At that thought, his mood turned gloomy.
“Kill the Leaves?” Owen frowned and mumbled confusedly, “Those Leaves are only peace offerings. They are totally harmless…”
Yin Qie Zi’s expression immediately darkened when he heard Owen’s mumbles. Owen himself also paused in shock. If someone had tried to kill the peace offerings, then did they want to destroy the current peace?
“Does someone want to start another war?” Yin Qie Zi asked quickly, feeling uneasy.
Owen scratched his head, and said while nodding, “Yes, a pro-war faction has always existed in this country. The last war between Zhan Yan and Danya was twenty years ago. Plenty of people are itching for a new war.”
Yin Qie Zi hesitated, but then questioned, “Does that include Warlord Paladin?”
“My father has never said it directly, but he is the head of a spiritmancer regiment. So he would naturally belong in the pro-war faction.” Owen didn’t feel all that disturbed at this revelation. He shrugged and bluntly stated, “Wouldn’t it be strange for the head of a spiritmancer regiment to advocate for peace?”
“The strange ones are the people who want to start a war. War is completely meaningless,” Yin Qie Zi said quietly.
At the new voice, Owen and Yin Qie Zi lifted their heads and looked towards the door. They saw Mila sitting with a smile on her wheelchair. She looked at Yin Qie Zi, her expression seemingly saying that she agreed with his comment of how “war is meaningless.”
Owen said, “Mila, you’re here? It is about time for breakfast, why don’t we eat first?” His last question was directed at Yin Qie Zi.
Yin Qie Zi nodded in response, relaxing a bit. Owen seemed to believe him and didn’t appear all that angry anymore.
The three of them moved to the dining room. The array of dishes on the dining table was rather sumptuous, but Yin Qie Zi only took a plate of fruit leaf. He couldn’t help but feel grateful towards Mila’s attentiveness.
Soon, Mila and Yin Qie Zi finished their meal. Owen was still gorging himself, so the two of them started chatting casually.
Mila smiled as she explained her previous words. “It was due to the war between Danya and Zhan Yan that my father rose to the position of War Marshal. After he represented Zhan Yan and signed the peace treaty between our two countries, he was given the title of Warlord. His promotion was the fastest ever recorded in history.”
Yin Qie Zi asked confusedly, “If they want to start a war merely for their own promotions, then what benefit does it pose to other people? His Majesty the King certainly won’t agree with this, he surely doesn’t need any promotion.”
“Much of Danya is covered with deserts or grasslands. Most of their people raise livestock as their way of living. Due to that, they’ve always had a shortage in grains and other types of foodstuff. It has already been twenty years since the last war. Without war to trim their population, I’m afraid it has grown to a degree that they can’t support. Even if Zhan Yan doesn’t go to war with them now, sooner or later, the Danyas will plunder our country due to shortage of food. So it would be better if we attacked first. If we do, we can take them down before they are prepared.”
At that moment, Mila paused, and then added, “At least, that’s what the pro-war faction has theorized. As for His Majesty the King… Just inside the Zangxia Gates, there is a large area of fertile grasslands. To the north, we have the Southern Gulf Mountains, which are rich in precious minerals. Deeper in, we have the Chushi Forests, where many unique and special spirits live. There are also unconfirmed rumors that one of the beasts’ rulers, , lives there. There are rumors saying that its feathers and blood can be made into a miracle drug that can prolong one’s life.”
Yin Qie Zi understood. The pro-war faction wanted war for their own promotions. The king wanted war to keep hold of his land, and perhaps also catch Soaring Phoenix.
“I heard from Owen that you’ve met another one of the beasts’ rulers, called Nightclaw?”
Yin Qie Zi shook his head. “Beasts don’t have such things as rulers. There are only a few physical spirits. Soaring Phoenix is a bird-type physical spirit, Nightclaw is a beast-type, and there’s also the mermaid of the sea. Soaring Phoenix’s blood truly is special and precious. It can be made into an antidote which works for practically every poison imaginable. As for its feathers, if you break the chains that bind the spirits together, you can add it to armor or weapons. It can be used to lighten the weight of metal armor and weapons. Other than that, I’ve never heard of making the feathers into medicine.”
Mila smiled and said, “It’s only a legend. There are also legends saying that Nightclaw’s eyes can be made into formidable spiritual weapons.”
“I’m not very knowledgeable about weapon-making. Though if someone is capable of getting Nightclaw’s eyes, then they are probably strong enough that they don’t need a spiritual weapon.”
Mila laughed and nodded. “You’re probably right.”
They continued chatting for a while, but Yin Qie Zi couldn’t suppress the unease in his heart. He opened his mouth and asked, “If the king truly belongs to the pro-war faction, then is war inevitable?” More importantly, were the Leaves labeled as peace offerings marked for death?
Proofreaders: Syrra, PiKairi
You ran away! After taking everything from me, you actually dared to run away!
No, I can’t be impatient. I can’t win against Gong Hua right now, not at all. I have to become strong!
A spiritmancer, a spirit charmer, or a spirit binder… No! I obviously don’t have any other options.
Gong Hua, don’t you agree?
Oh right, I had completely forgotten. You aren’t even human, so how it can it even be called killing a person?
“The Danji Yate. White reigns supreme in their tribe. The four colors in succession are vermillion, indigo, gold, and black.”
West raised an eyebrow when he saw his tent flap open. He then looked at the young man who entered, the latter making himself comfortable in the tent.
“I have no complaints about your report, but I do have a complaint about you. If I’m not mistaken, this is my tent, and the wine glass you’re holding is also mine! Moreover, what you’re drinking smells like the Xialan wine from my collection!”
At that moment, the young man stood up. He downed the wine in his glass, and carefully sat the glass aside. He then saluted West and said, “Commander, I have something to report!”
West replied in an unhappy voice, “Well, aren’t you polite. Speak, Yehv. What is it?”
Yehv gave a smile, and said, “About what I’ve said earlier, the Danji Yate is what is commonly known as Danya. The king of Danya is referred to as ‘White.’ It is said that he has a head of completely white hair, which does not bode well for us. White serves as the base color for all Danyas’ hairs. On top of that, they can have a mixture of red, blue, gold, and black in their hair. They can range from having either one or all four of those colors. Danyas with fewer colors in their hair are more powerful. So White’s strength is not to be underestimated. Of course, we don’t know exactly how strong he is.”
West nodded at the explanation and asked, “Then what do you mean by ‘The four colors in succession are vermillion, indigo, gold, and black?’ ”
“Danya is divided into four great families, which are the . Each of the four families would send someone out to serve directly under White, becoming a ‘Color’ when they assume their post. For example, someone from the Zhu family would just be called Vermillion.”
West understood, and commented, “So these Colors are similar to the Warlords of our own country. Our own four Warlords each command one of the four great clans…”
Yehv shook his head and said, “No, for the most part, the Colors are the children of the leaders of the four families. Normally, the Color is the most capable and talented child in the family. If a more talented child appears, however, then the Color could be changed by White. Also, only Colors who have served under White are able to succeed their family in the future.”
“That is quite baffling. If it’s like that, then is the social status of a Color higher than that of the family leader?” West asked puzzledly after hearing Yehv’s explanation.
“I haven’t investigated that yet,” Yehv replied, a hint of apology in his voice. “Alfven Xi Jiang only asked me to look into Danya’s military matters. Although I’ve researched a bit of their country’s internal affairs, it’s not enough for me to grasp a good understanding of them.”
“It doesn’t matter. We don’t have time to worry about another country’s internal affairs anyways.” West then continued somewhat gloomily, “It has been three months since the Danyas broke through the Zangxia Gates. Since then, they’ve attacked and occupied Zhong Zhen, our country’s easternmost town. They’ve even crossed over the Eastern River without difficulty, and now they’ve pushed us to Dong Zhen! The most important thing for us to do right now is to hold on to . If we lose the battle here at Chakou and let them pass over the Cha River, we would lose our last line of defense. The rich and prosperous would be like a fat sheep waiting for the slaughter.”
Yehv nodded in response and said, “To the north of Chakou, we have the Southern Gulf Mountains. And to the south, we have the Linhai Marshes. Plus, we have rivers acting as natural moats around the city on both sides. Chakou is easy to defend and hard to attack. However, as the city is quite some distance away from the Zangxia Gates, we have not built a military fort here. The strength of the city walls can’t compare to that of the Zangxia Gates.”
Upon those words, West growled furiously. “That bastard who abandoned the Zangxia Gates deserves to have his head chopped off, a hundred times!”
“The person you’re angry at is a , and your superior at that.” Yehv lifted an eyebrow. He then smiled and said, “Although, that person probably isn’t a zong jiang anymore; the result of his court-martial will most likely be worse than death. Despite that, you probably have to thank him.”
West stared in surprise. He didn’t understand what Yehv meant by those words.
“Our Alfven Xi Jiang now has one fewer zong jiang under his command, which means that the spiritmancer regiment Racing Flame’s Left Division is currently lacking someone to command them. According to what I’ve heard, you have a pretty good chance of rising two ranks and directly becoming the zong jiang of the Left Division.”
“Things are different when we are at war. Not to mention, Alfven Xi Jiang has already especially summoned you to join military conferences, and more than once at that. Am I right? Only officials ranked as xi xiao and above can attend those meetings.” Yehv paused and smiled mysteriously. “You might just be the one to succeed the entire Racing Flame regiment in the future.”
Faced with Yehv’s words, West’s heart couldn’t help but race in excitement. His ultimate dream was to command the Racing Flame regiment, but he knew he had something far more important to do at that moment. He straightened his state of mind and lashed out at the other. “Stop with your nonsense. If we lose this battle, we’d all probably end up dead in Chakou. There’s no point in talking about succeeding the Racing Flame right now!”
Hearing that, Yehv’s expression became serious. He replied, “You’re right. This will be a difficult battle. After we lost the Zangxia Gates, the troops’ morale has been sinking. In contrast, the Danyas are in high spirits, attacking and breaking our defenses with unstoppable force. We are at a severe disadvantage. It doesn’t matter if Chakou’s city walls are weak. Soldiers lacking morale can’t even guard a small treasury!”
At those words, worry appeared on the faces of both men. West muttered, “We need a victory to boost our troops’ morale.”
Yehv smiled bitterly. “Looking at the present situation, that would be very difficult. The most important thing right now is to defend Chakou. To steal a victory while doing that would not be simple.”
“Right. If we can defend it until the end, it would be our victory.” West couldn’t help but feel a little dejected, though he then pulled himself together and asked, “How are the plans for defending the city coming along?”
Yehv understood what West was really trying to ask and smiled faintly. “The loss at the Zangxia Gates has crippled the Left Division, reducing it to half its original size. So the main forces that will be defending the city are the Central and Right Divisions.”
West abruptly stood up and yelled, “Even if the Left Division has been reduced to half its size, it still has around ten thousand soldiers capable of fighting. Even if we are down to the last soldier, we can’t lose Chakou to the Danyas! Don’t tell me Alfven Xi Jiang hasn’t realized this?”
“Indeed, a majority of the high-ranking officers have not realized the importance of this battle,” Yehv replied honestly. “Our troops have been repeatedly pushed back during this whole war. Our casualty ranges around twenty-thousand soldiers, which includes around three thousand spiritmancers and two hundred spirit charmers. Judging from those numbers, it can be said that our losses have been disastrous so far. But beside our Racing Flame regiment, our country also has the Xialan spiritmancer regiment which is currently protecting the Old Zhan Plains. Moreover, Qi Feng has the spiritmancer regiment Qi Sheng, which is reputed to be the largest regiment in the country. Due to that, the officials aren’t too worried.”
West frowned and said, “The Danyas are stronger than what we’ve expected. If we let them into the Old Zhan Plains, our country would suffer extremely heavy casualties.”
“To the superior officers, the Danyas are merely barbarians. They don’t even have spiritmancers or spirit charmers. What is there to fear?”
“Nonsense!” West yelled, almost leaping out of his seat in anger. “The average height of a Danya male is two meters! Plus, they all possess extraordinary strength. Not to mention, Danya’s battles techniques are far more complex and developed than our own. An average soldier, no, even a spiritmancer wouldn’t be able to defeat one of them!”
“Alfven Xi Jiang understands at least that. He’s not an incompetent commander.” Yehv then assured, “The zong jiang of the Left Division has been court-martialed. The Left Division is crippled and only has half its soldiers left. It wouldn’t be strange for them to be left alone and ignored. However, that sort of situation wouldn’t last long. Alfven Xi Jiang would never do something as incompetent as not putting ten-thousand capable soldiers to use.”
Hearing those words, West’s expression improved slightly.
“You shouldn’t worry too much. You’re only a zong xiao. Even if you worry, you can’t change the current situation. Just be patient and wait. Alfven Xi Jiang truly looks favorably upon you. In my opinion, the Left Division will be yours sooner or later.”
West’s furrowed brow relaxed at Yehv’s reply. He patted the other’s shoulders and said, “You’ve worked hard. Thanks for the trouble. I’m sorry you had to go and spy in another division. You even had to forge a good relationship with Alfven Xi Jiang. If it weren’t for you, I would never have been able to obtain such valuable information with my rank as zong xiao.”
“It’s simply my duty.” Yehv smiled in response. “Besides, all you would lose is information if I’m not here. If you weren’t here, then I would certainly be in a more miserable state. Even if I don’t starve to death in some forgotten alley, I would certainly be reduced to stealing to survive.”
At those words, West couldn’t help but feel grateful to his unruly younger self. When he was young, he had sneaked out to play once and got his pockets picked by a thief. Losing his wallet wasn’t anything big, but his important family badge was also in his wallet. The scolding he had received at that time was horrific to recall. After tracking the thief, he found that it was a beggar he had passed by before on the streets. The important thing was that the beggar was only six years old.
He became a laughingstock after everyone found out that his pockets had been picked by a six-year-old child. So under the guise of wanting an attendant, he asked his father to bring the little beggar to him. But what kind of an attendant could a six-year-old possibly become? All West had wanted to do was teach the little beggar a lesson.
But contrary to his expectations, when his fifteen year old self stared down at the six-year-old child, he found that he didn’t have the heart to raise his hand. Plus, the child always addressed him with “Big Brother this” and “Big Brother that.” In the end, he even sent the child to be properly trained as a spiritmancer. Unknowingly, the child had somehow already grown to be this big.
Looking at Yehv, West couldn’t help but sigh. Then he remembered he was only thirty years old. How could he already be reminiscing about the past?
“You’re just like my father. Providing you with information isn’t anything big,” Yehv said in an appreciative voice.
“It’s ‘Big Brother!’” West almost coughed up blood when he heard the word “father.”
Yehv chuckled. “Alright, Big Brother it is—”
Yehv stopped halfway through his sentence and turned towards the tent flap. West followed and turned in the same direction. At that moment, a voice yelled out “Report” outside the tent.
West wrinkled his brow and called back, “Speak!”
“Zong Xiao, someone’s here to see you. His name is Zhan · Owen · Paladin. He says he’s your cousin.”
West was surprised and murmured, “Owen? What is he doing here?”
Owen was a spiritmancer of great physical strength and would be of great help in the war. However, West didn’t want him here. Even though Chakou was easy to guard and hard to attack, the Danyas were attacking with relentless force. Guarding Chakou would not be an easy task. Even if they did manage hold their position, the battleground would probably turn into a river of blood in the process.
The Paladin clan was already spread thin. In the previous battle, several young members of the family had already died. If it continued like this, then they would all certainly die off.
Looking at West’s expression, Yehv immediately knew what the other was thinking. He quickly said, “To be able to climb to the rank of xi jiang, help from the family is absolutely essential. Although the situation is dangerous at the moment, it is exactly this sort of situation in which soldiers can climb ranks the fastest. The more members of the family join the army, the faster they can rise in position. This will be of help to you in the future.”
“They’ll probably die faster than they can rise in rank…” West murmured to himself. Then he said out loud, “Alright, I understand. You can take your leave now. You’re the xi wei of the Central Division’s reconnaissance team. If someone sees you in the Left Division’s barracks, it’ll be troublesome for both of us. You can meet Owen after I have a talk with him and explain the situation.”
Yehv nodded and draped the long coat especially worn by scouts across his shoulders. Even more strangely, he put on a half-face mask. Disguise complete, he stepped out of the tent.
The guards standing outside weren’t surprised. They were trusted confidants especially picked out by West himself. They knew very well who the masked man was.
The Yehv without a mask was the xi wei who commanded the reconnaissance team of Racing Flame’s Central Division. He was just a little over twenty years old. Once the mask was on though, Yehv became West’s guard, a position he’d held ever since he was young. His face had been disfigured by a fire, thus he wore a mask all yearlong. He was the same age as West, a little past thirty.
West watched as Yehv left the tent. He couldn’t help but be grateful that he hadn’t made the decision to bring Yehv to the Left Division. If he hadn’t secretly sent Yehv to the Central Division, he wouldn’t be able to gather to all these top secret intelligence today. A war without secret intelligence was like a roadside without a brawl.
The tent flap was lifted once again and West turned his attention back in its direction. What he saw next made him pause in shock.
Owen walked in while holding a girl’s hand. Both of their clothes were battered and torn. The girl’s black hair was even more disorderly, the strands tangled in a gigantic mess. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was wearing a skirt, then it’d be hard to tell if she was male or female.
What kind of situation is this? West was surprised and suspicious at the same time. If it hadn’t been Owen, whom he had known since childhood, standing before him, then he certainly would’ve called the guards in to throw the two out.
“You…” West opened his mouth, but he didn’t know where to start asking his questions. He thought for a bit and decided to start with the most practical one—who was the girl standing beside Owen?
“Who is this girl?”
The question made Owen’s body stiffen. The girl also moved and hid behind Owen.
“What?” West’s eyes widened in disbelief. He then dismissed his suspicions and asked, “Did you desert the army?”
If Owen was a deserter, then West could solve it by using his position and the influence of the Paladin clan. It wouldn’t amount to much of a problem. Besides, Owen even personally came to the battlegrounds. The matter should pass if he said that Owen was worried for his safety and deserted his team to come here and cheer on the army.
Owen shook his head and was silent for a moment. He then pushed the girl hiding behind him to the front. “This is Gong Hua. She has committed a terrible crime, but it wasn’t her intention! To protect her, I took her and escaped. I ended up killing my team’s spirit charmer in the process.”
West frowned upon hearing Owen’s explanation. He killed a spirit charmer? Suddenly, West felt somewhat regretful that he had let Yehv leave earlier. If they had one more person, then they could discuss a way of solving the matter. He could even directly order Yehv to go and destroy the evidence.
On the other hand, West wasn’t too concerned about the girl called Gong Hua who had committed a terrible crime. What kind of crime could a thin and weak girl like her commit? The most she could have done was kill a person.
West’s mind was in complete chaos, but he still wanted to get a clear grasp of the situation. He asked, motioning towards Gong Hua, “Is she the girl you’ve talked about before in your letters? The one you wanted to marry?”
To be honest, West wasn’t very satisfied with the girl Owen had chosen. She looked even…dirtier and messier than Yehv had been when he was a beggar. How could a normal girl let herself become like this?
Upon hearing West’s question, Owen looked as if he had been dealt a heavy blow. His expression caved and he said in a muffled voice, “No, that girl was called Mila. She died…”
“Died?” West was alarmed, and then he noticed Owen’s face.
As the two’s attire were too shocking, West had failed to get a good look at their faces. But now he took in Owen’s sunken cheeks, his cloudy, bloodshot eyes, and the dark circles underneath. The lower half of Owen’s face was even covered with stubble.
Exactly what did he experience to become like this?
“The spirit charmer who was pursuing Gong Hua killed Mila. So I killed him.” Owen only offered a simple explanation.
West didn’t hear Owen and instead worriedly asked, “How long has it been since you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep?”
Owen stared blankly at West; he didn’t know how to answer the sudden question.
“Do you have soldiers following you?” West inquired closely.
Owen shook his head. They had traveled the whole way by vines, which were extremely fast. Even though people could recognize them as wanted criminals by the marks the vines left behind, they had no plausible way of catching up.
West felt reassured by Owen’s response. He patted his cousin’s shoulder. “Why don’t you go sleep first? Get a good night’s rest. We can discuss this afterwards.”
Owen nodded in agreement at West’s suggestion.
West glanced at Gong Hua and said, “That girl can sleep at the army personnel’s quarters.”
At West’s words, Gong Hua grabbed Owen with both hands and held on tightly. Owen shook his head and said, “It will be best that she sleeps with me.”
West was surprised and hesitatingly said, “That wouldn’t be very appropriate… She’s still a girl after all. Oh! Don’t tell me you guys have already…”
Owen was stumped and then understood what West was asking. He said unhappily, “Exactly what are you thinking? She won’t leave my side, so we can only do it like this. I will let her have the bed, while I will sleep on the ground.”
West still felt the arrangement was inappropriate but decided not to linger on such a small problem. He wasted no time and immediately called for people to bring them to an empty tent. He himself had to quickly go and survey the city walls of Chakou to determine how strong they were.
“Thanks, Ge,” Owen said.
West patted his cousin’s shoulder and responded, “Hey we’re brothers. What do you need to thank me for?”
Owen nodded and turned to leave with the soldier who was going to lead the way to their tent.
West followed Owen’s back with his eyes, and he was astonished by what he saw. In his impression, Owen had always been a man who exuded power and vigor even when he walked. Now, Owen appeared like an old man who was past his prime. His back was hunched, and he dragged his steps as he walked. The sight of his back was one belonging to a completely beaten and exhausted man.
“Exactly what did he experience?”
West was perplexed even after giving the question some thought. Even if Owen had killed someone, he shouldn’t have been reduced to such a state. As soldiers, could the amount of blood on their hands be called small?
“Owen, Mila said we have to leave this country. This place isn’t where we should—”
“Be quiet!” Owen suddenly growled out. The soldier walking ahead of them was startled. He turned his head to look back at Owen, giving the latter a strange look.
Owen managed to pull a smile and explained, “The child is being noisy. I’m just disciplining her.”
The soldier shifted his eyes to look at Gong Hua’s direction. He didn’t understand why a girl would come to this sort of place. He was even more alarmed at her wild and untidy appearance. However, he didn’t dare to question his superior’s commands. He would follow his orders to bring them to an open tent and leave afterwards.
When they reached the tent, Owen immediately sat down. He was exhausted, and the only thing he wanted to do at that moment was sleep.
“Owen, we have to leave this country,” Gong Hua timidly probed the other.
Owen’s anger boiled over and he exploded. He roared at Gong Hua, “Leave? How can we leave! I don’t have anything abroad, how would I live in another country?”
Gong Hua couldn’t understand Owen’s point. Even in Zhan Yan, he didn’t have anything. No matter where he went, all he had was Owen. It would be just the same in any other country, but only if Owen agreed to leave with him.
Gong Hua bowed his head, as if he didn’t dare to speak anymore. Seeing that, Owen couldn’t help but feel annoyed at his own irritation. He was on edge after days of being on the run. He truly had no plausible way of calming down at the moment.
“Gong Hua, you only need water to survive. I’m not the same. I need to eat, I need a place to live, and when it gets cold I need to wear thicker clothes.”
Of course, there were more reasons as to why he didn’t want to leave. In Zhan Yan, he had a family and a clan. Moreover, Zhan Yan was currently fighting a war. As a soldier, abandoning his clan and escaping to another country was unthinkable. But these weren’t things he needed to explain to Gong Hua, as she wouldn’t understand in the first place. All she did was stubbornly cling to the promise she had made to Mila.
“But Mila said we have to leave this country—”
That sentence again. Irritated, Owen waved his hand in dismissal and cut in. “Enough, go sleep on the bed. I have to sleep too. Be quiet for a bit, don’t be noisy.”
Gong Hua obediently lay down on the bed, but sleep wouldn’t come to him. For a long while, he stared blankly at the ceiling of the tent. Then, his eyes suddenly widened. A spark of fire had appeared on the ceiling!
Gong Hua didn’t know what to do. He turned his head to look at Owen, who was lying on the floor. Owen’s eyes were shut tight, and he was even snoring. He looked like he was in a very deep sleep.
Although Gong Hua wanted to warn Owen of the situation, he remembered that Owen had told him to keep quiet. Gong Hua hesitated, and then summoned vines to support the ceiling. Even if the whole tent burned down to the ground, he and Owen would remain unhurt. He then continued staring blankly into space, only this time in Owen’s direction.
It was becoming increasingly noisy outside. Perhaps Owen truly was tired, as he was still asleep and showed no signs of waking anytime soon.
Gong Hua didn’t mind. He listened to the racket outside while looking at Owen.
Hearing his name, Owen jumped up. He immediately noticed the vines that were encircling the insides of the tent. However, he wasn’t all that surprised. When they had been on the run, Gong Hua would surround the two of them in layers of vines whenever she felt the tiniest bit of danger.
Owen’s mind was hazy with sleep. He couldn’t figure out what was happening. Outside the tent, someone continued to call his name.
Owen recognized the voice and exclaimed loudly, “West-Ge?” He then turned to yell at Gong Hua, “Get rid of the vines, quickly!”
Gong Hua obediently did as he was told. He moved the vines back, but instead of sending them away, he let them rest on the ground, ready to move at any given time.
Just when Owen was about to step out, West rushed into the tent. He slammed into Owen, and the two crashed into the ground. Numerous shadows then flew into the tent, piercing the earth where they fell. They were arrows, the feathered ends still swinging from their force. If West and Owen hadn’t fallen, they’d probably have several arrows sticking out their backs.
But that was only the first wave. More arrows immediately followed the first into the tent, coming in twos and threes. Although the number of incoming arrows was small, the two men on the ground had no way of dodging them. An arrow struck Owen’s leg, eliciting a muffled grunt from the man.
“Owen!” Gong Hua screamed.
West raised his head. He had originally wanted to stand up and help; instead he was met with a sight he would never forget for the rest of his life.
The girl’s black hair waved about in a wild dance, as if it had a life of its own. Vines exploded out from the ground, lifting off the tent. The darkness was replaced with a sea of green, and then…a red that filled the skies.
“Ge, Ge!” Owen grabbed West’s shoulder and shouted desperately, “Exactly what is happening?”
Owen’s shouts jolted West out of his shock. He managed to find his voice and stammered out, “The Dan-Danyas are raiding us…”
The army had been under the impression that the Danyas were plundering around Dong Zhen for provisions. Even if they were to march over to Chakou, it would take two weeks at the minimum. Due to that, the security around Chakou wasn’t all that high. Instead, the army was focused on relocating the defeated Left Division and reinforcing the city walls. They didn’t know that it was only a pretense that the Danyas were still at Dong Zhen.
Contrary to their expectations, the Danyas didn’t attack from land. Instead, they had used ships and landed at the Linhai Marshes. Using the marshes as a shield, they secretly approached Chakou. They planned a surprise attack during the night, focusing their attack force at the back side of Chakou.
As they were under the impression that the Danyas were going for a direct frontal attack, the army had placed most of its forces at the front side of Chakou. The back side had been left particularly undefended. The forces placed at the back were mainly the crippled Left Division. The army was also in the process of reinforcing the city walls and city gate. They had been caught totally unprepared by the sneak attack. The city gate had been breached almost instantly.
With the gate breached, the entire city sank into confusion. It was complete chaos. The commanders couldn’t find the soldiers, and the soldiers couldn’t find the commanders. Everyone was mixed together in a gigantic mass, each trying to run for their lives.
If the Danyas had arrived this quickly, then it meant they had split their army into two. While one was attacking Dong Zhen, the other was already heading for Chakou! But West never heard news of the Danyas attacking by sea! Truthfully, they simply didn’t have enough information on the Danyas. Humans had always viewed them as foolish barbarians. Now though, it looked like the truly stupid and ignorant were the humans themselves!
It was over. Now, everything was over. The Danyas were fierce and swift in their attacks, appearing very well suited to warfare. They even had an advanced navy. In contrast, the people of Zhan Yan were all muddleheaded. They were completely unaware that they were facing such a powerful enemy. It all made West very discouraged. All he wanted to do was find Owen, pull him along, and escape with the other soldiers.
Now however, the girl’s black hair moved in a violent dance, the vines matching the movement. The Danyas who were as big and strong as demons suddenly didn’t seem as intimidating anymore. Shocked expressions even appeared on the Danyas’ faces, as if they had seen an evil spirit. Then, the previously invincible Danyas met their end as they were run over or sent flying by the vines.
At that moment, West came to a sudden realization.
The war had just begun.
Proofreaders: Syrra, PiKairi