“I’m fine,” I end up saying. “I’m fine, there is no need to worry about me.”
“Open the door,” Elder Liu called.
“No,” I said. “Why should I open the door?”
“It’s safe now, the evil spirit is gone,” Elder Liu tells me. “There is no more to worry about now that the full moon has subsided.”
“I hear you, but I’m still too tired to get up and pick the key. I just want to lay in bed. I’ll open the door later.”
I’m not opening the door. I’m going to starve myself until they will tell me the truth. There is no way around that.
“Dong Chen, you need to open the door or how will your breakfast be given to you?” Elder Liu kept going.
“I don’t want breakfast, I want to sleep.”
“Then you won’t get lunch either.” Elder Liu had a stern voice.
“That’s fine, don’t bring me lunch then.”
This sort of standoff is one that determines how important someone is. If I’m really not that important and Mom will be fine, then the Sect should determine that I should die or that they need not spend such effort on me. If I’m really important and there is something going on that they aren’t telling me where my continuing to live is important, then I should be able to find information this way.
At the very least, I’m not afraid to die. Starvation might be a painful death, but it’s preferable to living caged and in prison for the rest of my life. I wonder how long I can actually hold out, but at the very least this room has a source of water.
“Open the door,” Elder Liu said.
I pop in the earplugs and go back to sleep. I’m not opening the door. Call this a tantrum, but when a child wants to go against authority, they do whatever they’re able to defy them. Since they won’t let me act like an adult who can determine things on his own, I see no point in not behaving like a child.
“Open the door Dong Chen,” Elder Liu continued, but it’s muffled by the plugs. “Open the door!”
After trying to get Dong Chen to listen to her and open the door for over an hour, Elder Liu gave up and left. The guards remained at the door and were told to notify her or the Sect Master if it ever opened, and they were warned not to touch Dong Chen. The guards listened to orders in acknowledgement as Elder Liu went to see Risless.
Risless was conducting a lesson for her personal disciples, who she had high hopes for. They were from multiple different races, but all of them beautiful as the sun. The light radiated down to their hair, shining what seemed to be a halo of beauty amongst each of them. After a full moon, they looked far more feminine from absorbing the Yin energy the night before.
Elder Liu interrupted the lesson.
“Sect Master there is an issue with Dong Chen,” Elder Liu said.
“Everyone continue with the theory I told you and cultivate on your own, take it one step at a time and don’t rush. Rushing could cause a shallow cultivation with other problems.”
Risless ended the lesson and put up a silencing barrier around as she spoke with Elder Liu.
“What happened? What’s wrong with my son?”
“He refuses to come out of the room,” Elder Liu said. “He refused breakfast and said he didn’t care for lunch either. He has the key inside, and the room is a box that has a deep origin that we cannot go against and open. We are stuck and unable to reach him until he opens it.”
“What are we supposed to do then?” Risless said. “Is there absolutely no way to open it?”
“I don’t know,” Elder Liu answered. “We may have to seek the counsel of the Progenitor. She was the one who found it and installed it, and so she might know something about it we do not.”
“The Progenitor again?” Risless was ashamed of having to go once more.
“Would you prefer to convince him to come out on your own?” Elder Liu asked. “I can guess why he is doing this, but as I am not in the position, I cannot negotiate with him for the information he is seeking.”
“Let me think about this,” Risless was weary. “I don’t know how to handle him.”\
“Handling him is not the same as handling your disciples,” Elder Liu said. “You can cast out any disciple who disrespects or does things that are harmful to the Sect, but Dong Chen is a part of you, your own flesh and blood.”
“I know,” Risless said. “That’s why it’s so difficult. I can simply force him to obey involuntarily, but his unhappiness wrenches my heart. Yet I can’t bring myself to tell him what he wants to know because it so forbidden.”
“You really can’t tell him no matter what happens?”
“No, I can’t tell him.”
Elder Liu sighed, then bowed and walked away.
“Wait, where are you going?” Risless asked.
“I’m washing my hands of this,” Elder Liu said. “I’ve told you over and over you just need to talk to him but you refuse over and over. I cannot help you anymore.”
“If you’re not even willing to talk to him or repair your relationship, then you might as well let it go,” Elder Liu said. “You’re keeping him in the room, you’re not letting him have his freedom because the curse would also affect you and you’re refusing to tell him anything related to the curse because you are too ashamed. Let me tell you, even the progenitor had a risk of running into the same curse. Your grandmother was the same, one wrong misstep in the ritual to cultivate the Fate of Extreme Beauty and it could have happened to any of them.”
“But it didn’t happen to them, while it happened to me.” Risless spoke with despair.
“Even if it happened to you, it could also be seen as an opportunity. The progenitor says there was theories about how it could be even better for you if you— “
“If I what?” Risless was livid. “If I try to do that?” That which is forbidden? How can that happen between mother and son? Such a thing is forbidden by the heavens.”
Elder Liu sighed, thinking about it. Risless is too obstinate for her to talk further. She felt like there was nothing else she could do.
“I wish to absolve myself from assisting you and letting you handle this on your own,” Elder Liu said. “I cannot help you then if you’re not willing to challenge the heavens, which is the basic desire of all cultivators. It is why once one reaches a high enough level tribulation lightening comes down as the heavens try to eliminate those who attain power, which they should not. If that is not something you can understand or even want to understand, I can’t assist you.”
Risless stood there as Elder Liu walked away. It was difficult for her to mediate between the mother and son when the mother wasn’t willing to communicate. Keeping secrets for others while trying to talk to someone who would not back down on trying to figure out what was going on was hard.
Elder Liu did not feel happy, rather she was saddened that there was so much she could not do to mend that relationship. When raising Risless there were many secrets she had to keep, but eventually Risless would learn of them and she voluntarily remained a disciple. With Dong Chen, everything was forced, and he wasn’t able to change away from this.
“Elder Liu,” Risless called.
Elder Liu turned around to see Risless crying.
“I will try to talk to him, I will try to give him a choice, but I can’t do it now. I can’t do it now… I can’t do it… now…”
Risless was crying.
“Please help me, Elder Liu, please try to negotiate with him. Tell him that there is a secret, a secret I have that I can’t tell him now because it is something that I’m afraid of… even if he is not and he deserves to know I’m too afraid to tell him because it would ruin him as my son forever…”
Risless was on her knees, her face to the ground, crying. Risless looked pathetic as the clothing she wore was rubbed into the dust of the ground.
It saddened Elder Liu seeing this display. She couldn’t help but lament over the fact that her heart was too soft for Risless, and she still saw the Sect Master as a little girl.
“Fine… but only if I can tell him what would happen to you,” Elder Liu said. “He wants to know that his captivity has meaning, so he should at least know what will happen if something happens to him.”
Risless nodded. “Okay… thank you…”