Husband and Wife to Battle – Bittersweet Memories
A rebellion for the throne took place twelve years ago between summer and autumn. It was swiftly squandered; the rebellion didn’t last for even half a year. Alas, the people suffered as a consequence.
The siege on the capital failed. The army that laid siege to the capital retreated. The rebels defended their city with elite strategies and lives. The man behind the rebellion, being a Northerner, did his best to hold out until winter, when he could leverage his experience fighting in snowy conditions to defeat the imperial court’s military. Unfortunately, he fell at the city walls before winter came, as the Seven Champion White Princes joined the fray.
The city the rebellion army occupied was situated along an important travel route connecting the North and South. The leader refused to leave the city walls. Meanwhile, rations in the city eventually ran out. Death from starvation, bloody corpses, decayed corpses, skeleton sightings and woeful cries were ubiquitous and became a daily norm for those months he occupied the city. Hell on Earth was one way of describing the tragedy that ensued.
A young girl in the city during the turmoil fought for her life every day on the mean streets. Her mother once said, “Lian’er… Live.” Her mother’s words were her source of courage and hope during those days, yet they eventually became a curse that stopped her from pursuing death when despair hit. After the imperial court’s army broke through the defence line and punished the rebel, the imperial court expressed and exercised sympathy to all of the victimised families, thus beginning the period of recovery. Sadly, the girl’s nightmare had yet to end.
After the war was winter. The girl’s residence – if it could be considered one – was worn out and unable to keep the cold out. She had nothing to wear except thin and torn clothing and nothing to do but count her days before she froze to death. She would be a skeleton had she not encountered Brilliant Consort returning to the capital that fateful day.
Brilliant Consort didn’t feed her sumptuous food or gift her resplendent clothing. The only difference between her and other servants was the consort spent more time chatting with her daily compared to the others. Nevertheless, the girl cherished those conversations.
The girl assiduously learnt martial arts under a teacher’s tutelage and climbed to a rank few could match within the next twelve years. She treated Brilliant Consort’s child more importantly than her own life and protected the mother and son duo with her life simply because she was grateful for Brilliant Consort taking her in back then.
Life in the imperial palace wasn’t a lavish life and came with its difficulties. If anything, she often needed to devote all of her efforts to her endeavours if she wanted to grab even the lowest hanging fruit.
She was a girl, yet she had to abandon common perceptions of males and females to assume the identity of eunuch. She understood that meant she was doomed to spend her entire life alone and without descendants. As if it wasn’t enough, seeing others live out that very fate in the imperial palace was routine for her. Despite that, Bai Lian was sincerely grateful, for she, at least, wasn’t continuously plagued with the questions, “Will I freeze to death tomorrow? Will I even have food tomorrow?” At the very least, she didn’t have to work so hard to fulfil her promise to live on. Thankfully, it had been a long time since she felt overwhelmed with fear again. At some point, she forgot about the miserable times; perhaps she dissociated with those memories, forgetting she once lived in a hell.
Bai Lian, seeing the villagers crying and writhing in pain, clenched her fists tight without self-awareness of what she was doing. Her fear and detest turned her face red. She stood still in place and breathed heavily until her breathing was erratic. Her true qi began to run wild.
An elite adept taught Bai Lian the one-of-a-kind internal strength palm style she used. Top that off with her diligent practice and talent, and she qualified to stand among the highest-ranked members amongst the Seventeen Hidden Dragons. At one point, her teacher remarked, “You’re not weak anymore. You defeat ten imperial martial arts exam winners. What are you still training so hard for? I was only half as good as you are at your age, and I could barely sleep at night from the excitement.”
Bai Lian didn’t agree with her teacher’s evaluation. Her goal was to help Lord Zi succeed the throne. His six brothers had countless formidable names under their wings. Therefore, she had to do everything she could to shield him from his brothers. Subsequently, she continued to dedicate herself to improving her skills.
Bai Lian’s style was highly advanced; she merely hadn’t reached its peak due to her young age. Once she did reach its pinnacle, she would struggle to find someone who could match her. Her style took the quick route. One could become an adept within a decade using it. Having said that, the faster a style could be learnt, the greater the mental hurdles its practitioner had to overcome. In the martial world, said internal style mental hurdle was labelled as “Mental Barrier”. The difficulty of overcoming the “barrier” grew proportionately to one’s school. The orthodox sects weren’t fond of rapid-mastery styles.
Styles that could be quickly mastered required having a “spotter” around. That was another reason one couldn’t self-teach themselves martial arts; the more advanced the skills, the higher the risk of repercussions. Qi deviation was considered a light repercussion. Crippling oneself or incinerating oneself wasn’t uncommon. Orthodox sects stipulated their disciples mastered their craft before descending the mountain. If they weren’t good enough, they would end up with the short end of the stick. More importantly, their mental barrier still haunted them until their training was complete. If they didn’t have someone who knew their sect’s skills around when they lost control, they were practically finished.
Bai Lian hadn’t reached her mental barrier yet, which was why her shifu never bothered guiding her through it or considered protecting her. What her shifu didn’t know was she had improved by leaps and bounds more recently, exceeding her shifu’s predicted timeline. So accordingly, she was close to the plateau she needed to get through. The sight of the villager’s misery triggered her buried memories, thereby triggering her demon barrier.
Bai Lian’s style’s barrier was particularly troublesome. She had to shed blood, or there was no calming down. Her master she regarded more importantly than her own life was right in her presence. She mustered up all of her strength to speak but she couldn’t. She wanted to say, “L-Lord Zi, run… Stop. Control yourself, Bai Lian. Now is not the time…”
As Bai Lian edged toward the undesirable path, she suddenly felt a soothing sensation around her similarly to a warm hug. She cried, “Ah,” as she felt her body temperature gradually soar. She wondered, “Wh-Who would have such long arms?”
The answer to her questions was right in front of her. There was only one other person besides Lord Zi around. Although unwilling to acknowledge it, Ming Feizhen emerged in her mind when she felt the warm sensation. She had no time to bother with the details, nonetheless. The warmth spreading to all of her limbs was soothing; it helped calm her wild true qi back to its normal state. She felt reassured in his arms; not even the sky falling down scared her. After so many years, she finally heard the words she wanted to hear most: “Don’t be scared. I’m right by your side.”