Elder Liu was in her mansion getting ready to sleep. There was tea next to her bed, the usual tea she always drank. The maids had always set it out for her to drink each night to help her sleep. Though sleep was not required for her, it was something that helped with a routine: the Yin energy at night made it difficult for the disciples of her sect to train.
Elder Liu sipped.
It tastes slightly different today.
She went to sleep and nodded off. Two figures who were in hiding with the mansion found the key on her sash and left. It was Hou Jian and Qin Zheng. Under the night sky several of their helpers gathered near the palace with Qin Zheng ordering them.
“Keep a lookout,” Qin Zheng said. “Hou Jian, you go with me. Do you have the sack with you?”
“Yes,” Hou Jian said. “It should be big enough to fit Dong Chen. I also brought a spare.”
“A spare?” Qin Zheng was puzzled.
“In case something goes wrong. Whenever there are difficult missions, the military tactics book says to bring a spare if it doesn’t harm the logistics of the mission.”
Qin Zheng shook her head, then ordered them to move in.
“Fine, let’s go. I have the key. Put Dong Chen in the sack. The rest of you make sure you’re covered and do not touch his skin. If his skin is touched, it might awaken the curse and she will chase us.”
I was up waiting for that girl to come talk to me again. It had just been so lonely for me. Only seeing Elder Liu each day made me depressed. Still, there was nothing else I could do or say when I considered the situation. She had not come since I told her I didn’t to leave.
I stared at the ceiling in the dark. Maybe the thought of leaving this place really wasn’t that bad. I’m wasting my life away as it is. There isn’t much I can actually do while I’m here.
I heard a bang on the door, and the key was opening it. Elder Liu normally didn’t come at night. I got up to see who was there and there were women completely covered up from head to toe.
“I’m Hou Jian,” the one coming in said. “I am here to rescue you.”
The voice was familiar. It was the girl who had been visiting me at night. I had already told her not to rescue me and she was going against my wishes. Seriously, what’s wrong with women in this world?
“No, I don’t want to go,” I said. “I appreciate you coming and talking to me, but let me be. Don’t take me anywhere.”
“If you stay here, you will die!” Hou Jian said. “Listen to me. Didn’t I tell you the evil spirit was really the Sect Master banging on your door?”
She took out a jade which projected an image of mom banging on my door and shrieking under the moonlight. It was a horrifying sight, and the creepy voice she called me in was the exact one I heard the last full moon. There was now no doubt in my mind my mom would go insane if she and I didn’t conceive a child together.
I had to try then as soon as she comes out of seclusion as soon as she’s ready to face me.
“Leave the key with me,” I told her. “Just leave it with me and go on your way. When Elder Liu comes tomorrow, I will not tell them it was you and when everything is settled, I’ll as my mom to let you be with me.”
“Let me be with you?” Hou Jian seemed a bit startled.
“I mean, the reason you’re doing this is that you love me right?”
There’s no other reason for someone to be so stupid as to risk her life… unless there was some other hidden meaning behind it… but Hou Jian seemed like a naïve and honest girl. It’s hard to see her coming up with a scheme herself, and she seems to be the leader of this group.
“Shut up!” A very short girl next to her said.
She suddenly made a quick movement towards me.
Qin Zheng had knocked out Dong Chen and stuffed him in the bag. Hou Jian was there, unsure of herself. Dong Chen had mentioned that she loved him, and perhaps she loved him, but her feelings weren’t completely matured yet.
Now he was unconscious and in the sack that she has to carry.
“Take it and let us go,” Qin Zheng said. “We have to leave the Sect now or else in the morning they will find us. I have the protection spell liner to use on the sack so it should protect him as we move at high speeds.”
The group of thirteen left the palace and blitzed across the night sky, where the stars still continued to twinkle and the moon was a thick crescent. They moved through the air without resistance as a special technique let them move at great speeds. They traveled over a thousand miles and left the large sect within an hour, and even after that continued moving over vast swarths of land.
Cultivators were the rulers of the world, and no one could dispute that.
As they moved, Hou Jian felt Dong Chen’s body on her back. He was supposed to be a mortal they were protecting, yet before he could speak more Qin Zheng had knocked him out. Perhaps this was for his own good, but was this treatment necessary? She didn’t understand the feelings that sprouted up in her chest, but there was the complex emotion of doubt that prevented her from fully embracing those actions.
Once the dawn came, they stopped to rest and Hou Jian went to Qin Zheng.
“Why are we doing this? Where can he go now?” Hou Jian now thought about where Dong Chen would actually go if touching someone could cause a curse.
“We are going to the Burning Embers Sect,” Qin Zheng said. “With him as a hostage, we can leverage the Blossoming Flowers into doing what we want. We can get more resources for as long as he can live. You’re welcome to join us, but if you refuse, you will die.”
Hearing this Hou Jian was shocked. This wasn’t something she had signed up for, and she did not know Qin Zheng’s intentions.
“I like you little sister,” Qin Zheng said. “You did all the scouting for me and let me know that the hiding technique could definitely work on the higher ups at the Blossoming Flowers. I didn’t have to risk my own life to try it, but now that you’re here with us you have a decision to make.”
“A decision… but I thought we were going to help Dong Chen. I thought the purpose of this was to give him a life beyond the cage!”
“Yes, yes… But then what after? What life does he have beyond the cage? Think about this. Dong Chen is a mortal who has no aptitude for cultivation and there is a curse on him that causes his mother to kill anyone who touches him out of jealousy. Where can he actually live? He’s doomed to be isolated from others his entire life as only his mother can touch him. At least we can use him as a bargaining chip and if we need to lure Risless into a trap, it will be easy to do simply by activating that curse.”
Hearing Qin Zheng, Hou Jian felt a furious anger welling up within her. She had manipulated into doing all the scouting and taking up these actions for them.
“You! How could you? The Blossoming Flowers Sect took you in just as they took me, and you tricked me into thinking that there was hope for him? We should take him back! Even if I die, I don’t care. I deserve death for being tricked… at the very least he could have had his will in wanting to stay there!”
“My Little Sister, I am telling you you shouldn’t do this. You are talented and can use the hiding technique well after only a few weeks. You have an aptitude, so join the Glowing Embers. Our Sect will soon be one that rises.”
Hou Jian felt the weight of Dong Chen hanging off the sack on her back. She had carried him all this way, hoping he could be free and have a better life. After all that effort, all the running and everything they had done up to this point, he was only to become a hostage. The funny young man behind the locked door would become nothing but a tool.
“No, I’m taking him back!” Hou Jian said.