Two months ago Zhang’s group head reached Green Clover city. Once they reached the city they found that the Silver Spear mercenaries were escorting the three daughters of Green Clover city’s lord.
After reaching the city the mercenaries completed their task and using this opportunity Jian Wei hired them to escort he group back to Aurora city.
Along the way no one dared to cause trouble for the group any longer thanks to the five thousand soldiers that escorted them.
When they reached Aurora city Jian Wei announced to his government officials that Zhang would be his successor. Although a few people objected they could not change what was set in stone.
After proclaiming Zhang as his successor Jian Wei also announced his plan to unify the warring states region.
On that very day he rallied all of the available soldiers under his command. Jian Wei originally wanted to divide his forces into four directions. But then a correspondence from the Heilong Kingdom arrived.
It invited all allied forces to attend a tournament being held in the Heilong Kingdom after six months. Being apart of the alliance it would be rude to decline however he could not go personally and sending a messenger wouldn’t be giving the Heilong Kingdom face either.
Jian Wei had already rallied his forces and if he did not act right away moral would fall. Worst of all of the other forces in the warring states region would out they’d band together and attack.
That was when Zhang volunteered. He would represent Aurora city at the tournament as Jian Wei’s successor.
Jian Wei put ten thousand calvary soldiers under Zhang’s command for this trip. He mapped out a route for Zhang to take in which the Dragon’s Maw would be avoided and Zhang would circle above it. This would allow Zhang to avoid running into Red Mist city.
Also worrying for Zhang’s safety Jian Wei ordered one of his generals to accompany Zhang on the trip. This man was called Lu Xun.
But once Zhang left Aurora city he headed back toward Green Leaf city.
“Onward! We must reach the city before sundown!” Zhang yelled.
“You heard the commander!” A dressed in black armor yelled. This man would be called Lu Xun.
Behind these two Yuying and Ai rode on their Inferno Wind Walkers. And behind them were ten thousand soldiers wearing black armor and holding black flags with a golden dragon head on it.
Zhang was able to pick out a banner and the armor his new subordinates would be wearing. Jian Wei had let Zhang pick whatever he wanted out of the city’s armory. Given the opportunity Zhang cleaned out the armory of its black colored armor and also took piles of weapons which he stored into his interstitial ring. Thankfully interspatial rings could store a nearly endless amount of things as long as one took the time to store these things away.
“My lord the tournament is going to be held in roughly five months and it will take us roughly three months to pass the Dragon’s Maw using that secret passage way. Which will leave us with only one month do execute that plan you devised and another month to reach the Heilong Kingdom.” Lu Xun said.
“We will execute the plan once we pass the Dragon’s Maw I estimate that it would take roughly ten days. That would leave use with plenty of time to ride to the Heilong Kingdom’s capital.” Zhang replied.
“Let’s hope we don’t run into any setbacks my lord.” Lu Xun said.
“My lord the city is just up ahead.” A soldier riding from the opposite direction yelled out toward Zhang.
Roughly half a hour later the army reached the outside of Green Clover city.
Just when the army arrived the city gates closed and thousands of soldiers appeared on top of the walls.
“Who goes there!” A soldier yelled out.
“We are soldiers of Aurora! Headed for the Heilong Kingdom!” Lu Xun yelled out.
“Have your commander come alone before our gates and verify your status and intentions!” The soldier yelled.
“Insolent! You dare to give us orders?!” Lu Xun yelled.
In the warring states region Aurora city was the strongest and no one dared not to give them face. However the soldier above the wall was barking orders at them and demanding their commander go to the city gates alone.
While placing his hand on Lu Xun’s shoulder Zhang said “it’s okay their time will come soon.”
“Pitch camp here!” Zhang yelled
Then he rode out alone to the city gate.
The city gates creaked opened creating a gap big enough for a single rider to enter.
“Apologies milord.” A soldier said as he walked down from the top of the walls.
“No need.” Zhang replied quickly.
“So your forces are from Aurora?” The soldier asked.
“Yes we are headed towards Heilong to attended the grand tournament.” Zhang replied.
“Is that so, I would like to ask how come we have not received any correspondences from Aurora yet about your arrival.” The soldier said.
“Ah that is because my lord tasked me with a important mission up north. However mid trip we received orders to change course and go through the Dragon’s Maw and head to Heilong.” Zhang replied as he pulled out the invitation to the tournament.
Once the soldier saw the invitation he said “if you could wait here young master I will inform the city lord to meet you.”
“Sure I can wait.” Zhang replied with a smile on his face.
Shortly after the soldier rode off on a horse heading toward the city lords mansion.
Roughly half a hour passed when a carriage heading for the gate could be seen. The carriages looked extremely lavish with gold and precious gems decorating its exterior.
Once the carriage reached the gate a elderly man walked out of it. Once seeing this man all of soldiers bent one knee and bowed.
This man was the lord of Green Clover city Lu Gong.
“Greetings milord.” Zhang said as he got off his and bowed.
“So I hear you come Aurora and wish for my permission to pass into the Dragon’s Maw?” Lu Gong asked.
“Yes, I come with orders from Lord Jian Wei to head to Heilong.” Zhang said as he showed Lu Gong the invitation to the tournament and his medallion that Jian Wei had given him back in Red Mist city.
“Ah yes I recognize that medallion. Without a doubt you are from Aurora. But why are you heading to Heilong so earl the tournament is not for another five months.” Lu Gong asked.
“I have a special task from Lord Jian Wei that I have to personally see to.” Zhang said.
“Alright fair enough you have my permission to pass. But before that I would like to invite you to my home for a feast to welcome you to our city.” Lu Gong said.
“Thank you milord, and sure I would love to attend the feast but my men are waiting outside the city.” Zhang said.
“They will be taken cared of I will have my men send them food and wine to show our hospitality. Follow me.” Lu Gong said.
Zhang did not actually wish to attend the feast because the more time he had to pass the Dragon’s Maw the better. However he could not turn down Lu Gong because if he got on the bad side of this man he might not be granted permission to enter the Dragon’ Maw.
With an army of only ten thousand he would not be able to seize this city so he had to keep Lu Gong happy.
Lu Gong had Zhang join him in his carriage as they headed toward the lord’s mansion.
The lord’s mansion was extremely lavish and had many servants. When the carriage reach the front gate hundreds of servants lined up to greet Lu Gong. Zhang was led to a large hall where lots of food and tables were set.
Soon the festivities began.
As Lu Gong entertained Zhang a soldier walked in and bowed to Lu Gong. The soldier handed Lu Gong a letter and left the hall.
Upon opening the letter and reading its contents, Lu Gong looked at Zhang. Then his artifice changed. Before he had only superficially tried to entertain Zhang simply out of formality.
But after reading the letter he truly tried to befriend Zhang.
“You should have told me you are Lord Jian Wei’s foster son!” Lu Gong said while smiling toward Zhang.
“Ah I apologize milord do not like to use relations when dealing with others.” Zhang replied with a smile.
“Is that so.” Lu Gong
“Ah yes how about I introduce you to my two daughters.” Lu Gong said.
“Um no need to bother the young misses.” Zhang politely declined.
“No no it’s alright I think they will be happy to meet someone like you.” Lu Gong said as he ordered a maid to go fetch his two daughters.
Soon the maid led back Lu Gong’s two daughters. The sight of these two women would make any man have nightmares. They basically possessed all the features that no one wanted combined and worsened by one hundred times.
“Hello young master, it’s my honor to meet you.” One of the two daughters said to Zhang.
“Yes it’s nice to meet you young master, would you like to go on a stroll with me through the city?” the other one asked.
“Why would he want to go with you? When he can go with the beautiful me.” The other sister yelled while grabbing one of Zhang’s arms.
“No no he’s going with me!” The other sister said as she grabbed Zhang’s arm.
The two of them began pulling back and forth fighting over him.
“I’m sorry but I won’t be able to accompany either of you today I’m feeling rather sick due to the long journey.” Zhang said.
“Oh your not feeling well? Someone escort the young master to a guest room.” Lu Gong said.
Although Zhang tried to turn him down the man would not take no for an answer. Eventually Zhang gave in and agreed to stay for the night.
As Zhang laid in the guest room he thought something was odd. The lord of Green Clover city was said to have three daughters. However today at the banquet he only presented two of them. But if the last one was like the first two Zhang did not want to meet her.
He disliked how they acted today at the banquet with all of the bickering and fighting. It gave him a headache just being near them. He preferred women who were more reserved when first meeting someone. More lady like to say.
A maid came into the room to give Zhang a bucket of warm water to wash himself.
“I wanted to ask didn’t the city lord have three daughters?” Zhang said to the maid as she put down the bucket of warm water.
“Yes young master the lord does have three daughters.”
“I was wondering why only two of them appeared today at the banquet.”
“The eldest young miss had an accident as a child and does not often meet strangers. She is somewhat eccentric and does not often get along with others hence she does not attend such events.” The maid answered politely.
“Accident? Do tell.” Zhang was curious by nature so he kept asking the maid.
“The lord does not like outsiders knowing about the incident. I’m sorry young master but I can’t tell you anymore” The maid declined.
“But if I don’t tell anyone, and you don’t tell anyone how will he know? Perhaps my little friend can persuade you.” Zhang said as he made a gold coin appear in his hands.
Seeing this gold coin, the maid’s eyes lit up. As a maid she made a decent amount of money in the form of wages however a gold coin for a commoner was a lot of money.
“If you put it that way, I guess I can tell you.” The maid said as she took the gold coin from Zhang’s hand.
“You see once the previous madam of the house passed the lord married again. Shortly after the new madam had two daughters with the lord. Once the two young ladies were born the lord due to the coaxing of his new wife paid all of his attention to his new daughters. The eldest young lady never got along with the new madam to begin with and this simply added to the fire. The two of them broke out into many arguments again and again to the point that they would not talk to each other. And one day the accident happened. I was told that the lord was throwing a banquet for his birthday. The madam wanted to personally cook a dish for him so she was cooking in the kitchen. The eldest young miss apparently had gone to the kitchen to make a dish for her father also. However, the two of them got into an argument and the young misses fell into a pan of hot oil.” The maid said.
“Her face became badly burned along with her hands. The oil had totally disfigured the once beautiful young lady. I bet if the accident had not happened there would be lines of men waiting outside to ask for the young lady’s hand in marriage. I was told that as a child she was very pretty.”
“The odd thing was the young lady after waking up said that the madam had pushed her into the hot pan of oil intentionally. But since the two of them were in the room alone no one but them knew what happened. The lord at the time had been completely charmed by the madam and of course would believe her.” The maid said.
She proceeded to tell Zhang about how after the accident the eldest young lady of the house stopped leaving her room and her father stopped visiting her as time pass and eventually to the point of not seeing her for months on end. The last time the young lady left her room was because it was her mother’s death anniversary and they had to travel to her mother’s home town to pay respects.
“That will be all for tonight, thank you.” Zhang said to the maid as he made another gold coin appear and handed it to her.
The maid delightfully left the room and went on doing other tasks that she had to do.
After the maid left Zhang decided to take a stroll through the lord’s mansion. The stars were out tonight and very beautiful. They twinkled in the night sky and he thought they looked like sparkling diamonds high up in the sky.
As Zhang walked due to the odd layout of the lord’s mansion he became hopelessly lost. He roamed about trying to find his way back until he ended up in a garden. The garden was filled with various flowers and plants.
One thing he noticed was all of the plants in this garden had a medical use. As the son of a merchant he had seemed lots of various medical herbs being sold.
While walking through the garden he heard singing. Zhang walked toward the voice hoping to find the person singing to ask them for directions.
The closer he got the clearer the voice became and soon he could make out the words of the song. The song sounded very sad and would make the strongest of men weep. However, the voice that sang that song was truly angelic.
As Zhang got closer he saw the figure of a young women sitting by a pond on top of a rock.
“Hello there can you please give me some directions?” Zhang asked.
However, when the young women heard Zhang’s voice she panicked and tried to run away however she instead tripped on her long dress and fell into the pond. And to make things worst it seemed like she couldn’t seem.
“He-help me! Help! I can’t swim!” The young women yelled as her head went under the water.
Zhang seeing this ran toward her and dived into the water and fished her out.
Once out of the water the young women gasped for air.
“Are you alright?” Zhang asked.
But when Zhang spoke to her she quickly used her hands to move her hair to cover her face after realizing her face was in full view.
Her face had very severe burns to the point that some of her flesh melted and ended up somewhere else. The wound was so bad that till this day parts of it had not completely healed so there were scabs all over her face. Her hands were not any better off.
“Ye-yes thank you for helping me.” She said.
“I’m guessing that you are the eldest daughter of the city’s lord?” Zhang asked.
“Ye-yes my name is Lu Lingqi.” The girl said while looked away from Zhang.
“If you could please tell me the way back to the quest rooms.” Zhang said.
“Oh I almost forgot you have a wonderful voice.”
“Nothing? It’s most likely the best singing I’ve ever heard. If I could listen once more that would be wonderful.”
“You mean it?” Lu Lingqi said.
“Of course if you can give me the honor of listening once more. But maybe after you change into dry clothes. I wouldn’t want you to get sick from singing for me.” Zhang said.
“How about I meet you here again tomorrow?” She said.
“Tomorrow I will most likely be gone and I don’t know when I’ll ever come back. If it’s too much to ask, then forget it. Listening once was good enough I guess.” Zhang said.
“If you would follow me.” Lu Lingqi said as she got up and began walking. A short distance away a small building could be seen. Lots of medical herbs could be seen being left to dry all around the building,
“Pl-please wait here.” She said.
A short while later Lu Lingqi appeared once more and began to sing. Zhang sat down at a stone table to listen. After listening to her song Zhang asked her about the medical herbs.
It turns out that Lu Lingqi was a doctor. She had learned about thousands of medical recipes and practices from reading medical books. Zhang found this very intrigue and the two chatted for a few hours.
Lu Lingqi’s medical knowledge was monstrous. She even knew of some lost practices from thousands of years ago. As the two chatted she gradually opened up to Zhang a bit and stopped looking away. However, her hair still covered most of her face.
As they chatted Zhang felt that this girl was too pitiful. Having lost her mother at a young age and having to live such a lonely life due to her disfigurement. That was when he decided to give her a gift in exchange for letting him listen to her singing.
“It’s about time I should be getting back now. Before then I want to give you something. But first you have to close your eyes.” Zhang said jokingly.
Lu Lingqu had not talked to anyone like she did with Zhang for as long as she could remember. Since the accident a part of her seemed to have died. She lost interest in finding companionship with others. To be more specific she loathed it.
But after talking with Zhang for a while she found the although he had seen her face he did not look down on her. He talked to her as equals without judging her. Lu Lingqu felt that she could trust this young man in front of her. He been the first person to not react to her disfigured face.
She closed her eyes and waited for Zhang to tell her to open them.
“No peeking.” Zhang said as he took her hands into his own.
Lu Lingqu felt a weird itching sensation on her hands. But her eyes remained closed. Moments later she felt that Zhang had let go of her hands. Then she felt a pair of gentle hands brush her hair to the side. After her hair was brushed to the side the hands gently touched her disfigured face. Then the odd itching sensation could be felt on her face.
Moments later the two hands departed from her face.
“You can open your eyes now.” Zhang said.
Upon opening her eyes Lu Lingqi saw that Zhang was holding a very beautiful necklace in front of her.
“This is for you. Thank you for singing for me. Next time we meet I hope that you will sing for me once more.” Zhang said as he left the necklace on the stone table and left.
After Zhang left Lu Lingqi reached her right hand out to pick up the necklace. This was the first gift she had ever received from a boy besides her father in her entire life.
But when she reached her hand out she saw a tender delicate looking hand with snowy white skin. Before she would see a burnt and scarred hand.
Not believing her eyes she took her other hand and felt her right hand. That’s when she saw that her other hand was delicate and snowy white also. She used both of her hands to feel her face.
She felt smooth skin where bumpy and dry skin had been before.
Lu Lingqi ran into her room and opened a closet. Inside was something that she had not used for years. A large hand mirror was left at the bottom of the closet collecting dust.
When she picked up the mirror she was afraid. She was afraid that she would see a horrifying disfigured face. However, once she looked into the mirror two trails of tears began running from the corner of her eyes.
“He did this.” She murmured as the tears continued to fall.