Hearing the maidservant’s voice, Wei Chang Luo edged his face closer towards the curtained bed, even going as far as risking exposing his countenance to the maidservant just a meter or two away.
Unfortunately, all that greeted him was Xiao Wen pushing aside one side of the curtains to jut her face in.
“Fourth Young Miss, ah!” Xiao Wen called, reaching in to tickle the sleeping girl.
“Please wake up! This servant made some lunch for the Fourth Young Miss to eat.”
As she spoke, the maidservant retrieved her head from the curtained bed, rolling up her sleeves to expose a pair of fair-skinned arms. Seeing that Xiao Wen began moving towards the table that he was hiding underneath, the Second Young Master quickly ducked his head back into his sheltered area, his eyes still probing the curtains for any hint of his sibling’s appearance.
“Fourth Young Miss, this servant made some warm herbal congee to eat, along with some salted radish.”
The maidservant explained as she opened the wooden box, taking out the contents and placing them onto a tray.
To Wei Chang Luo’s utter disappointment, Xiao Wen simply peeled apart the curtains to enter herself, closing them shut to ward of his ‘accidental’ prying eyes.
“Can’t get a peek this time…” the youth sighed, before sneaking out from underneath the table.
Just as he attempted to inch closer to obtain a single peek, Wei Chang Luo’s expression drastically changed, panic spreading across his countenance.
“Next time it shall be! Father can’t hide her from the rest of the family forever, but I have to grasp this opportunity before Elder Brother can!”
Clenching his fist as an indomitable figure appeared in his mind, the Second Young Master of Wei took a deep breath and spread out his arms to his sides.
Revolving the spiritual essence congealed within his body to attract the cloud he had expelled to disguise his presence from the maidservant’s awareness, Wei Chang Luo retrieved all traces of spiritual essence he could detect before stealthily departing from the study.
When night fell, An Fei finally escaped from her bedchambers, or rather, the study of the Flowing Wind Residence. Muffling her sounds as she crept past a soundly asleep Xiao Wen, the girl heaved the two doors open.
A heavy gust of chilly air struck her face, causing An Fei to stagger back inside. However, the short glimpse of the night sky was enough motivation for her to bear the cold temperature of the night.
Walking back to the bed and wrapping her body with the lightest blanket she could find, the girl finally took her steps outside of the study.
Her feet wrapped within a pair of shoes stolen from the maidservant, An Fei aimlessly staggered around the courtyard.
She would walk along the winding pathways of cobbled stone before falling to the ground in exhaustion, or sometimes spin around in the neatly trimmed grass.
Regardless, she continued to stare at the night sky, her countenance breaking into a full smile of admiration.
“How beautiful…” the girl murmured, her right hand reaching for the sky.
The night sky was decorated by a sea of shining dots of light. Some were dim, others shone bright with a distinct radiance that was firmly captured in her gaze. Some dots of light twinkled, others were shining orbs suspended in the night sky.
Bathed in starlight that was not inhibited by atmospheric pollution, An Fei closed her eyes as she slumped on the ground, huddled in the blanket.
Taking deep breaths of the chilly but clean air, she felt so incomparably alive and tranquil, as if her worries were sliding off her body.
She no longer knew how long it had been since she had entered this world.
Two months, three?
Nothing seemed to particularly matter compared to the sensation of living in the windless, cold night of autumn’s last fragrance. Opening her eyes, the scarlet irises were still dulled, yet a deeply concealed determination could be detected within.
“I…want to live.”
The girl whispered, her hand grasping towards the stars. Her fingers curled into a fist; though it was weak in strength, contained within was all she could muster.
“But I don’t know what I will do…” she affirmed to the emotionless sky of night.
“Yet still, I wish to live.”
“I want to learn.”
“I want to explore.”
“I want to eat and sleep and be content, never worrying about the world’s problems.”
“I…I…” the girl’s voice faltered, trailing off into an awkward silence as she stared at the teardrops of midnight.
The twinkling of the stars warmed her frozen heart, the eyes obscured by a faint mist.
“I…I…want to see Grandfather again…”
Once the dam broke, the flood couldn’t be halted. The pathways to her heart connected by the gentle yet indifferent radiance of the stars, the grievance contained within poured out with an unstoppable momentum and force, splashing across the night sky with an unforgettable stain of hatred and sorrow.
“I…I don’t want to see you.” The girl whispered.
“I don’t want to see you.”
“I don’t ever want to see you!”
“Chen Shuyan, An Yan Yue, I don’t want to see you!” the whisper grew into a frenzied howl, the raw emotion stripped bare underneath the piercing light of the stars.
The girl’s voice trembled and cracked, yet she continued to scream.
The maidservant sleeping just on the other side of the courtyard, the possibilities of any bystanders nearby observing her shout to the heavens, all notions were tossed aside in her mind.
The girl continued to cry her heart out, discarding the presence of an infantile Fourth Young Miss.
“Chen Shuyan, Chen Rou Si, Chen Jing Lian, I don’t ever want to see you! Feng Ming, Fang Yu, throwing me into that room just after my birth, was it fun to observe me torture myself to survive? An Xiang Jun, was it fun to strip and assign my surname as you desired, making me an illegitimate child for a mere five hundred yuan!? Huang Yu, Guo Po Lu, Ming Zhen Yi, was it worth it betraying me for a mere favor from the An Family?”
“Chasing me to the end of the world, was it that entertaining for your all? Making me travel to the depths of hell, torturing me, poisoning me, turning my friends against me, was it that worth it for you!? An Rong Chen, was it that fun watching me squirm in agony!? AN RONG CHEN, WAS IT THAT FUN!?”
“I HATE YOU ALL!” the girl screamed in a hoarse voice, minuscule droplets of scarlet scattering from her throat.
“YOU WHO DARED CALL YOURSELF FATHER, I HATE YOU!”
Her body devoid of strength, the girl receded into the depths of her blanket, shivering from the cold temperature.
However, her heart seemed warm after venting her suppressed emotions, not affected by the stillness of midnight.
Her body ablaze by a numbed tingling sensation, An Fei fell into a stupor as memories of the past flashed before her eyes.
The accursed beings that called themselves family one moment and enemies the next; the friends who had betrayed her for an insignificant sum for sake of betrayal; that man who dared call himself her closest kin whilst inflicting the most pain of them all.
Everything she had encountered from beginning to end replayed in her mind, in clear detail and fluidity. It seemed as if she was reliving her life in a single moment of time, a whole eighteen years of suffering and regrets…
“You were here too?”
A soft voice dragged the girl out of her thoughts. Blinking rapidly and shaking her head to clear her mind, the girl craned her neck to the right to see a man dressed in white gazing at her.
The man smiled at her, the gentle expression on his countenance naturally complementing the tranquility of the dwindling fragrance of autumn. He seemed content and at peace, yet the girl could clearly see a hint of sorrow and despair hidden within his elegance.
An Fei’s mouth moved by itself, uttering the word she would have never expected to have said in any circumstance.
Yet, the word she had hated for so long seemed natural to her ears, her heart bursting with a gentle warmth.
Her mind finally accepting the realizations and confoundments imposed onto her by the world, the girl opened her delicate mouth to speak once more, the hoarse and completely spent voice charming in the sky bathed by stars.
“Father, you are here as well?”