Above the city of Jiang’an, a fiery globe of heat began its solemn descent into the earth. Heralding its fall, the accumulated snow tumbled in respect, their form melting into an indiscriminate pool of emotions and thoughts.
Regardless of its divine might, the sun was to descend for the latter half of the day.
Even an inanimate object as the globe of heat was to follow its natural constraints, much less a regular citizen of Jiang’an.
Jiang’an’s streets continued its usual din, numerous lanterns emerging onto the edges of the streets, guarding the traveling citizens from the unknown darkness. Though flickering from the relatively cold temperature and the unnatural existence as it were, the lights warded the streams of people as they traversed the streets of wealth.
Spending their life’s fate and income as they did each day, from birth to death as they were.
Such was the case in Jiang’an, and the Flowing Wind Residence was no different.
Servants rushed forth holding banners and lampstands, securing them onto the ground with well-placed spikes of black iron. Others soon approached with torches ablaze with a crimson, flickering glow.
The torches were fastened onto the slots of the lampstands, and the banners were strung from one lampstand to another. The servants dusted their hands thrice, before retreating to their respective courtyards.
Tonight was the last night of winter.
Within a few inconsequential hours noticed only by the foolish, the breath of spring descended onto the world.
“This year’s winter was quite miserable,” a servant remarked to another as he patted his clothes to remove any remnant snow.
“Hopefully, the spring will be warmer than last year,” his partner grimaced.
“I’d like to be spared from pneumonia this time.”
“Hah! You get that sickness each year, why do you complain so much about it? Just accept your fate, ah!”
The servants bickered as they strode down the pathways leading out of the courtyard, their shoulders relaxed and carefree.
As their shadows departed from the protection of the blazing lampstands, a small figure poked its head out from the door of the study.
Sweeping its gaze left and right, the figure cautiously made its way out of the study, stepping onto the cold ground. Cursing at her feet that had chilled from the thawing ground, the girl shook her head twice, rushing towards the lakeside pavilion whilst dodging the remnant clusters of melting snow and ice.
The lake had been cleared, the dead fish replaced with those overflowing with vitality.
The scales shimmering underneath the water, the colorful fish swam mindlessly in the cool lake, blissfully unaware that their predecessors had been boiled alive a few days ago.
Or that the water had been replaced at the same time as they were introduced underneath the pavilion.
If they were told of such a matter, perhaps those fish would reveal the highest disdain. Matters irrelevant to their world was the highest quality of utter nonsense, even if it spelled their fate in distinct characters.
Perhaps, if those fish could attain sentience, they would become the worst scholars, yet possess a remarkable intelligence.
Stepping lightly on the wooden steps leading to the lakeside pavilion, the young girl carefully stood at the edge of the wooden structure. Peering at the lonely silhouette inside, the figure paused for a brief moment, before raising a dainty hand to knock thrice on a nearby beam.
A raspy voice answered, and the silhouette rose to face the young girl. As the faint slivers of light emanating from the stationed lampstands slashed across its face, the silhouette exposed the countenance of a cold, youthful and handsome male.
He was the Eldest Young Master of Wei.
Though Wei Xuan had limited his confinement to a total of three days and nights, the youth had remained for a week. He took no sustenance nor reprieve, silently gazing outside of the pavilion towards the ever-changing skies of Jiang’an.
The young girl remained silent at the call, the pair of scarlet irises gazing at the youth in curiosity.
“…so it’s Fourth Little Sister,” Wei Chang Feng’s voice regained its vigor, and at the same time, its indifferent nature.
“What does Fourth Little Sister wish to convey to me?”
“…The First Madam wanted you to stop this unnecessary self-punishment and visit her,” the young girl finally replied, her left hand idly toying with several loose strands of her hair.
“Although, Father doesn’t want you to leave until you’ve changed your mind.”
“Then seems like I shall stay here for quite a while.”
The Eldest Young Master swept his sleeve, adjusting his robe as he sat onto the wooden floor of the pavilion.
Rolling his neck twice, the youth directed a cold and apathetic glance towards the small figure standing at the entrance.
“Go, convey Father and Mother my words,” Wei Chang Feng dryly spoke, his voice absent from any changes or inflections.
“I used to have eight maidservants attending to me day and night, but the number dwindled to a mere two before I awoke,” the girl suddenly murmured in a quiet voice, not assenting to the youth’s curt tone.
“Do you… know what happened to them?”
“Has Father not told you?”
Wei Chang Feng raised an eyebrow toward the small figure, a mild irritation flickering in his heart. To his surprise, the girl merely shook her head, an expression seeking knowledge evident in her gaze.
“Fourth Little Sister’s maidservants were truly capable,” the youth’s countenance was devoid of emotion as he stared at the girl.
“To think that I would lose a full squad of assassins per maidservant, it’s a pity that my resources were not as developed as Fourth Little Sister.”
The young girl gave a start as her hands clutched around the wooden beam.
However, when the youth inspected her gaze, he found not turmoil, but a slight penance much to his befuddlement.
“…no wonder why Father refused to speak of them,” the girl murmured to herself, gradually disengaging her fingers from the wooden planks.
“To think that they died underneath Eldest Brother’s hand… I’m not exactly sure how to react to such information.”
“You don’t seem scared or too distraught?”
The Eldest Young Master’s voice abruptly resounded from behind as the girl turned to exit the pavilion. Pausing her step, the young girl stared at the dimming sky, before a soft voice filtered into Wei Chang Feng’s ears.
“…I have neither conversed nor interacted much with the servants who perished from your assassinations,” the girl slowly spoke in a flat tone.
“To be quite honest, all I feel is a slight pity for not knowing their names, but I fear that should I had taken the endeavor, then I would surely be amidst a sea of grief.”
“…so who’s the monster of us, hm?” the youth finally revealed an indistinct smirk at the distant figure outlined by the setting sun.
“If I dare mourn for a person whom I do not know their name with emotion, wouldn’t I have become a hypocrite just as you?”
The girl countered as the sun crooned as it finally crossed the horizon, the vestiges of golden light sputtering into emptiness, one strand at a time. Only after a cup of tea’s time did the girl fall into action, sitting onto the ground and staring at the darkening skies of Jiang’an.
“Eldest Brother,” the figure illuminated by the spare radiance called out.
“Have you truly not changed your mind?”
“…I have not changed my mind on this matter.”
The Eldest Young Master smoothed his complexion, returning his gaze towards the inner depths of the pavilion. The youth and young girl sat on the wooden floor with their backs facing the other, staring from different angles of the same dull, golden sky.
“Then you will still kill me to resolve a conflict that may or may not impact the family?” the girl inquired.
“I will,” Wei Chang Feng intoned with an even tone.
“Fifth Little Sister, Third Elder Sister, and even Second Elder Brother as well?” the girl breathed.
“Father, First Madam, and Second Madam?”
“They will similarly not be spared if such price is necessary.”
“Then… what about yourself?” the girl finally asked in a trembling voice.
“Will you… kill yourself as well to… protect the family from harm?”
The Eldest Young Master creased his brows in a frown at the sudden question, his mind unexpectantly drawing a blank.
Nonetheless, a glint of resolve struck the youth’s gaze as it pierced the skies with a ruthless gleam, determination swelling within his heart.
“I will.” Wei Chang Feng uttered with a powerful voice lacking hesitation.
“Myself, and whoever else it takes, I will never skimp on the price necessary to achieve safety for the family.”
“Then… who would be left for you to protect?”
“…what did you say?”
The Eldest Young Master abruptly raised his head and whirled around to face the girl, only to discover that the small figure had vanished from her seat at the entrance of the pavilion.
Instead, a soft voice drifted near his ear, gently waiting to be heard by an unwilling listener.
“Eldest Brother, it’s been hard on you, ah.”