Title: The Four Y’s
Fandom: The Untamed/Mo Dao Zu Shi
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Kid!fic, Pre-Relationship, Slash
Relationship(s): Nie Mingjue/Meng Yao, others
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Major Character Death, Slavery, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Dark Themes, Abuse Child, Abuse Domestic, Adultery, Death Minor Character, Discussion – Child Abuse, Discussion – Domestic Violence, Discussion – Murder, Discussion – Rape, Discussion Sexual Abuse, Discussion Torture, Disturbing Imagery, Violence Canon Level, Rape Off Screen, Murder
Word Count: 151,000
Summary: Wei Ying is once against being berated by Madam Yu, instead of taking it and watching as his brother is verbally lashed, he stands up to her. Not wanting to see his brother hurt by his own mother again. The woman turns on him and drives Wei Ying from the Jiang Sect he starts to travel around the Cultivation World, picking up a few people on the way to add to his own misfit little family. His hope as he travels is to find a home for himself and those he now claims as family.
Wei Ying grinned as he went through his sword forms once again. The way Subian sang as it moved through the air delighted the thirteen-year-old. The sword had been gifted to him almost a year ago. Sword and Cultivator had bonded and worked well with each other. Subian had truly become an extension of Wei Ying as he fought. Jiang Cheng was right beside him, going through the same forms with Sandu. The two had also paired up as well as Wei Ying and Subian had. The two teenagers often worked alongside each other, going through the forms that Jiang Fengmian had taken the time to teach them both.
Neither of them noticed as Madam Yu stormed towards them. “Wei Wuxian!” she yelled out, startling the two teenagers badly that they dropped out of the forms, almost dropping their swords at the same time.
“Madam Yu,” Wei Ying said as he turned around and snapped to attention. He sheathed Subian quickly and bowed towards the woman and the Lady of Lotus Pier.
Jiang Cheng did the same beside him, “Mother,” he bowed in greeting, clenching Sandu tightly.
“You were going through them too slowly, they should be faster, sharper,” she yelled at Wei Ying, finding fault with everything he had been doing. “You should be moving swifter through them. You didn’t raise your arm to the right level on them at all. You were made the top disciple for a reason, and it’s one that you’re failing at badly!” she snapped at him in disgust.
“Madam Yu, this disciple apologises for their lack of ability,” he apologised, hands raised and clasped before him as he lowered his head and bowed deeply to the woman.
“A-Cheng,” she said as she looked towards her son. “Why are you letting him beat you? You’re better than him, and yet he still beats you at everything!” She started to berate him, “You’re worth more than that upstart!”
“Mother,” Jiang Cheng began but didn’t get to say anything more before Madam Yu’s attention was back on Wei Ying. Leaving the young Jiang Clan Heir looking down, embarrassed and disappointed in himself once more.
“And you,” she glared at him. “Nothing but a son of a servant and once more you’re showing up this sect! You’re supposed to make sure that A-Cheng looks good. That he is seen as the best that this sect and clan has to offer. Yet here you are, trampling all over what we have done for you since you arrived here four years ago!” she criticised his behaviour.
“Madam Yu,” Wei Ying began carefully. He hoped that he would be able to ease what Jiang Cheng was feeling. He could see the hurt on the younger teens face. Wei Ying was his brother, his older brother. He was the one that was supposed to be strong enough to protect him from everything. That was what he wanted to do, protect Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli.
“It would have been better if you had remained as a Servant of the Jiang Sect. Nothing but mopping floors and working in the kitchens. That would show you the hard work that you need in your life. Instead, you live it up at our expense,” she sneered at the young teenager, “Always showing everyone up with your smug pride.”
“Mother,” Jiang Cheng frowned at her, looking horrified at the thought of Wei Ying just being a servant in the Sect. He had often heard her berate and yell at Wei Ying over anything and everything she could find wrong with his brother. Most of the time he would hear about Wei Ying’s parents and how he lived above his station in life. Jiang Cheng knew that it was all lies, that Wei Ying was where he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be his brother, his friend, his confidante.
“Shut up, A-Cheng,” she yelled at him, turning to face her son once more, anger and disappointment evident on her face. “You’re such a disappointment,” she told him, “You constantly let this upstart beat you to everything. Instead of rising above the challenge and doing well. You fail, each and every time.”
“Madam Yu!” Wei Ying stepped forwards, vibrating with anger at the words she was yelling at her only son. “Please, you should not say such things. Jiang Cheng is doing really well. He’s doing so much better than all the other junior disciples that are older than him. And that’s even taken into account that they’ve had their swords longer than he has had Sandu!”
“Be silent wretch,” she lashed out at him verbally. The crackle of Zidian echoed around them as the purple lightning danced upon her hand.
“Be silent!” she yelled once more. This time she used Zidian to whop the ground next to Wei Ying, “If I wanted your opinion on how to deal with my disappointing son, I would ask for it. But then again, it’s worth nothing to me anyway,” she sneered.
Jiang Cheng wanted to say something, but the words became stuck in his throat. Fear ran through him as he looked at the frightening image that his mother made. His father was away at this moment in time. The Sect Leader never really left the Sect unless his help was truly needed, and even then, he tended to make sure that Wei Ying would be able to remain out of the way of Madam Yu. He knew along with everyone else at Lotus Pier, that she couldn’t stand Wei Ying, that she hated the fact that he was living there as part of the Jiang Clan and not just part of the Sect.
“I have a worthless head disciple that can’t even follow the basic instructions in sword forms. And a son that does even worse. You will never be a good Sect Leader. You’ll fail at that as you have done with everything else,” she sneered as she glanced towards her son, whose head was now bowed, not looking at the woman he called mother.
Jiang Cheng clenched his fists tightly. His eyes began to fill with tears as his mother continued her tirade against him. All he could hear was her telling him over and over how much of a let down he was to her. How he would never amount to anything. Wei Ying stood beside him, wanting nothing more than to reach out to his younger brother, reassure him that everything was fine. That Madam Yu was just angry at him, at Wei Ying, and was taking it out on her son instead of him.
“Enough!” Wei Ying shouted finally, as he saw a tear fall from Jiang Cheng’s eyes. He shook his head, as he took that step towards his brother. He put a hand on his shoulder, trying to comfort him. “What kind of mother are you to say such things to your only son?” he asked her, eyes wide and still unbelieving of the things this woman was saying, the vitriol that was raining down on her own child, her only son.
“I’m a mother that wants the best for her family. But all I get is people that try to tell me that I should accept my husband’s bastard child into my home!” she yelled at him, taking a step towards Wei Ying.
“You’re no mother!” Wei Ying yelled back, “How can you be a mother to your son, or even to your daughter. When all you do is berate them for every single thing that you think is wrong with them. Even when everything is fine and they are doing their very best, you still find something that they should be criticised and yelled at,” he said, breathing hard.
“I am a mother,” she repeated again, glaring at him, “I’ve worked hard for this family, and I will not stand by and have it be spoiled because of you.”
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Wei Ying shook his head, “I’ve done nothing to you but live here, in the same place where my father was born and brought up. Where my father was family to Uncle Jiang.” He paused a moment, observing the woman before him. “You’re supposed to love your children and support them in all they do. When something bad happens, you’re supposed to be by their side, encouraging them when they feel like they failed. You’re not supposed to hurt them as you do.”
“I don’t hurt my children at all, I just ma-” she began.
“You do though,” Wei Ying interrupted her, “You do. What do you think your words have done to Jiang Cheng just?” he asked her, glancing at his brother. “You’ve just hurt him with your own words, just like you always do,” he shook his head in disgust at the woman’s actions. Then again, that feeling had been there the first time he had heard her berate and belittle Jiang Cheng for not being better than one of the older, senior disciples. “Then there is Shijie, what do you think it does to her when you tell her off for not being strong enough to cultivate properly as we do. She can hold her sword, even use it for a while. But she can’t fight like we do or for as long as we do. She wants nothing more than to do so, but her own body betrays her. You tell her that she’s useless, you’ve made her feel as though the only thing that she is good for is to marry her off to your best friend’s son. That she will be stuck into a marriage with a peacock that doesn’t even care about her!”
“She will be the wife of a Sect Leader!” Madam Yu protested, forgetting for a moment that this was a teenager and not a young man that was standing in front of her, questioning her choices.
“She may become the wife of a Sect Leader, but there should be more to her than that. She is a young woman who loves deeply and Jin Zixuan is a brat. He doesn’t care about her at all. He’s made her cry so many times in the past few years when he visits because he doesn’t like her. Yet you continue to force them together when he comes to visit. The last time he did, Shijie cried so much. She even hid away for most of his visit because of his words. You don’t even care. You really don’t care as long as you have control of the situation,” he continued to tell her what he had noticed over the years, everything that he had seen.
“And what would you know? You’re nothing but a child,” she sneered at him, looking down at the teenager.
“I know what I see. I watch and observe what is going on around me at all times. I learned to do so a long time ago after all,” he answered her, “You hurt them by comparing them to others. They are individuals, Jiang Cheng is so smart and strong and you don’t even see it. Shijie is so kind and hard-working, but there is nothing you notice about her. Instead, all you see is me and what I’ve done compared to them.”
“That’s because you’re always trying to outshine them. You take everything from Jiang Cheng, everything. You’ve taken his father from him, you’ve taken his sister and you’ve even taken his place in this sect!” she yelled, Zidian crackling even more.
Wei Ying sighed, shaking his head. “I’ve taken nothing from him at all. Uncle Jiang is still there for Jiang Cheng. Shijie still loves and adores her baby brother. And as for his place in the Sect. No, I can never be the Sect Leader. It’s not for me and never will be. My place, if you really want to know, is beside him, helping him, supporting him. As my father did to Uncle Jiang. That is where I will be. What you do when you see me is compare us, always comparing, telling your own mind that I’m taking everything from you. Instead, all I want is family, to be a part of one. And I am with Uncle Jiang, Shijie and Jiang Cheng. You had the chance to be family as well.”
“You’re nothing but a brat, a brat that has been a thorn in my side since you arrived in this sect four years ago. I wish you had been left there on the streets. He should never have brought you back here!” she yelled, raising Zidian high.
“Mother, stop!” Jiang Cheng called out, eyes wide in horror as he tried to gain her attention, “He-”
“I’m doing this for you. I’m making sure that he will never even think about taking your place. You’re my son,” she told him, her voice almost gentle as she spoke and looked at him.
“No, you’re not doing it for him,” Wei Ying snorted, “Nothing of what you’ve done is for either of the children you say you love. They’re all for you, to make you feel better for a perceived slight against you. You think I don’t know what people say about Uncle Jiang and my Mother. I know that there was nothing between them. I may not remember much about my parents, but I remember how much they loved each other, the smiles, the laughter and the love they shared all the time. There would have been no chance of something happening between my Mother and Uncle Jiang. They… they spoke of Uncle Jiang more than once. They told me that he was their brother and best friend. That’s what he was for them. I know Uncle Jiang believes in that as well.” His words were sure, he knew the relationship between the three of them. Thought that was because he had finally worked up the courage to go and ask Jiang Fengmian about it.
“How dare you!” she lashed out once more, “You come into my home, make my own family turn against me. They all talk about you, every time I see them. They have no understanding that you’re nothing but a poison to this Sect. In the end, you’ll destroy us all and I will be proven right in my distrust of you. Your mother was nothing more than a brat and a little whore. She no doubt had her way with as many men as she could turning their heads away from those that loved them.”
Wei Ying stiffened as he stared at Madam Yu. “My Mother was no such person and you know it,” he glared at her. “You’ve let your petty jealousy drive you constantly since the day I arrive here. But that started long before I walked through the Entrance of Lotus Pier. You harmed your children well before I arrived. You really think I haven’t heard what you’re like from the people that are around you. That you yell and hurt your son with your words, because to you, he doesn’t measure up to a line that you think he should be at. A line that is so high that not even you would be able to reach it,” he sneered at her. “No, the problem with this family isn’t with them, or me, the problem is you. You’ve hurt them so much and you don’t even realise that you’re pushing them away and turning them against yourself.”
Madam Yu fumed as she heard the words that the teenager had dared to speak to her. “How dare you!” she raged once more. This time she moved quickly, ignoring the call from her horrified son as she raised Zidian and lashed out towards Wei Ying.
Wei Ying’s eyes went wide as the whip came down on him. He yelled out as it caught him on his chest. He twisted around, trying to get away from it and didn’t notice as it landed on his back. Sending him skidding to the ground.
“You’re nothing but the son of a servant and a whore. You should have died on the streets where you belong. Or with those fool parents of yours. The world would have been better off without you!” Madam Yu began to yell as she continued to rain Zidian onto Wei Ying’s back, “Should have never taken you in. You’re nothing but a bad omen, a worthless disciple.”
“Mother, please, please stop,” Jiang Cheng cried out, “You’re going to kill him!” he worried, trying to reach his mother. He grabbed her arm but was quickly thrown away from her.
“Your parents betrayed the Jiang Sect the moment that they ran away from the responsibilities here!” she carried on. Ignoring the fact that she had just hurt her son as she threw him back, “Your father should have remained with the Sect instead of taking off with that whore of a woman! She was nothing but a common whore, with men lusting after her all the time. The rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all!” she carried on ranting.
“Stop!” Wei Ying tried to yell out, choking a little at the pain as he did his best to avoid another lash from Zidian hitting his back.
Madam Yu ignored the pleading call from both of them and carried on as she shouted at him. Letting out all the rage she had towards the prone teenager. “I knew you would be trouble as soon as I saw you. As soon as I knew who exactly your parents were. It’s a good thing that they’re dead. I’ve no doubt you’d be worse than you already are. Pity you just didn’t join them!” she yelled, stopping for a moment, breathing hard from the exhaustion she was beginning to feel when the whipping she was finally giving Wei Ying.
Jiang Cheng slowly got to his feet, his head hurting a little as he stood. Seeing his mother standing there, he moved quickly. Rushing towards her before she could even think of trying to hurt Wei Ying again. His brother was on the floor, shuddering in pain as he attempted to get up. “Mother, please, you need to stop, you can’t do this!” he protested as he went over to her and grabbed her arm once more.
“Keep out of my way!” Madam Yu snarled, her vision was only filled with Wei Ying as she lashed out at her son, raising Zidian up to harm him.
Wei Ying, seeing what was going to happen, stumbled to his feet and grabbed Jiang Cheng. turning him around and shielding him from the bite of the whip. “You… you need to get out of here now, she isn’t… she isn’t thinking straight,” he whispered to his brother. A little blood was dribbling from his mouth as he pushed Jiang Cheng towards the edge of the courtyard that they had been practising in.
“No, I can’t,” Jiang Cheng shook his head, looking at him, fear evident in his eyes.
“Do it!” he ordered as he then felt the tingle of Zidian as it wrapped around him and pulled him away from his brother. It tossed him towards the open doors of a nearby room. It hit him again, sending him inside of it as Madam Yu quickly followed him.
“No!” Jiang Cheng yelled out as he rushed towards the door as it slammed closed on them.
He could make out the pained cries of his brother and the non-stop yells of his mother. Tears formed in his eyes as he banged on the door, “Open up, please open up! Stop!” he begged, hitting the door with all his might. But it never budged an inch.
Jiang Cheng goes still as he hears a loud pained scream from inside. Shaking he rushed away, tears streaming down his face as he called out, “I need some help!” he rushed around, trying to find his sister. Wanting her help in stopping their mother. He wished for a moment that his father had been there. He knew that Jiang Fengmian would have been able to stop what was going on. Jiang Cheng cursed himself that he wasn’t strong enough to stand up to her again.
“Jiang Wanyin?” one of the senior disciples called out to him, frowning, “What is it?” he asked, seeing the distressed state of the young Sect Heir.
“She has him, she has him and she’s hurting him. I couldn’t stop her,” he cried out, “You have to help me stop her, please,” he begged, grabbing the man’s robes and clutching onto them tightly.
“A-Cheng!” came the worried cry of his sister. She had heard him calling for help and ran through the walkways to see what was going on.
“Jiejie,” he cried as he saw her, letting the disciple go and running towards her, “Mother. She took him, she’s hurting him, Jiejie. I couldn’t get to him, I couldn’t help him.”
“Okay,” she said, her voice shaking as she realised what her baby brother was saying, “Hu Zixin,” she said, glancing at the disciples, “Go and get two more, we may need some help in restraining my mother.”
“Yes, Lady Jiang,” he bowed before rushing off to do as she ordered.
“A-Cheng, take me there,” she then said, turning to her brother as he let her go.
Jiang Cheng nodded, wiping away the tears as he ran, leading the way towards the pavilion that Madam Yu had locked herself and Wei Ying inside of. They came to it. Hearing a yell from inside as well as other noises. Three disciples ran towards them, Hu Zixin in the lead. The three of them worked together in opening the door.
Wei Ying stood with Subian raised, a hard glint in his eyes as Madam Yu stood opposite him. He was beaten, blood seeping from the wounds on his back and from the corner of his mouth. The five of them knew that it could have been a lot worse if Wei Ying hadn’t been able to fight back against the woman.
“Mother!” Jiang Yanli snapped as she walked into the room, “Enough of this,” she said, “A-Xian, her voice going gentle as she turned to look at him, “Go and see the healer, now please,” she ordered.
“A-Li,” Madam Yu began as she lowered her arm. She had used Zidian a lot in the last few moments, battering against Wei Ying.
Jiang Yanli just looked at her, there was no emotion in her eyes as she stared at her mother. She went over to Wei Ying and placed a gentle hand on his arm, getting him to lower Subian, “A-Xian, come. We’ll go to the healers,” she said softly.
Wei Ying gave her a quick nod, sheathing Subian. He stumbled a little as he attempted to walk out of the room. He knew that something more was going to happen as soon as he was alone again. He would have to make sure that his bag was ready, that everything he needed was in there. Jiang Yanli kept hold of his arm as she led the way to the healers. The three disciples followed along with Jiang Cheng, each of them wanting to make sure that Madam Yu didn’t follow them.
The healer sighed as he finished bandaging Wei Ying’s wounds. “You should go and rest for at least the next two weeks,” he advised the young cultivator as Wei Ying started to pull on his tattered robes.
“Hm,” Wei Ying just hummed.
“Your injuries will heal quickly as always, thanks to the strength of your core. But you’ll still need to rest and keep them clean. You’ll need to clean them at least twice a day. There’s a salve that I want you to use one of them as well. Zidian does more damage than your average whip, even worse than a discipline one,” he added, as he brought over a tub of salve.
Wei Ying glanced at him, and took it, “Thank you and I will,” he said. While he would be using the salve when he could, he may not be able to get the rest that the healer wanted him to.
“Come,” Jiang Yanli said as she moved around the screen, “I’ll take you to your room, so I can make sure that you’re in bed.”
“Really Shijie,” Wei Ying smiled at her, “there’s no need,” he reassured her that he would be fine alone.
“Are you sure A-Xian?” she asked him, helping him from the bed, looking worriedly at him.
Wei Ying grinned and nodded, “I will be,” he told her and then looked at Jiang Cheng who had followed his sister from behind the privacy screen.
“Wuxian,” he called out, voice still shaking badly after what he had witnessed.
“You okay?” he asked, “She didn’t hurt you, did she?” he needed to make sure that he had been able to protect his little brother.
Jiang Cheng nodded, “Of course I am. You should be more worried about yourself, not me! She… she hurt you,” he went over. Wei Ying could see that he was shaking and met him halfway from the bed. Mindful of his injuries that were on his back, the two hugged.
“I’m alright, I may be in a bit of pain, but that will soon be gone. For now, everything is just fine,” Wei Ying reassured him, rubbing his back.
Jiang Cheng hesitated and with a careful move, he hugged his brother. They stood there for a few moments before Wei Ying let him go.
“Right, I’m going to head to my room for a bit, I’ll see you both later on,” he told them. Deep down he worried that something was going to happen between then and now that would change what he had said.
“I’ll make your favourite meal,” Jiang Yanli smiled, “Come, A-Cheng, you can help me in the kitchen,” she added, glancing at her youngest brother. She knew that he needed some way to calm down after what he had been through. What they both had been through.
“Okay, A-Jie,” Jiang Cheng nodded, he turned to Wei Ying, “I’ll see you at dinner?” he asked him.
“Yeah,” Wei Ying answered, smiling at him before the two siblings left the room.
“Now,” the healer said, getting the young cultivator’s attention again, “Young Master Wei, you should return to your room and rest. While your back is healing, the injury may cause you some trouble for a while. I’ll send along a few things so that you can change the bandages as well as an extra salve to use on them to ease the pain and aid in the healing,” he said as he finished making up a package for the young thirteen-year-old.
“Thank you, Healer Saho Duyi,” Wei Ying smiled at him, taking the package and tucking it away with the salve as he then walked slowly out of the healing wing of Lotus Pier.
Wei Ying walked towards his room. A few of the disciples approached him as he walked, wanting to know if he was alright after what had happened. It seemed that everyone knew what Madam Yu had done, and not one of them was happy about it. He did his best to reassure them that he would be fine. As he walked, he could feel eyes on him. He suppressed a shudder, he would have long. He hurried to his room and grabbed the Qiankun pouch that was always at the ready. Putting in more of the money he had saved and hidden away over the last four years into it. Along with a few other things that he had taken the time to hide away over the years.
It was one of the things he was grateful to Uncle Jiang for. While the man never thought he would be leaving the Sect at all, Wei Ying had been insistent on having things that he could easily pack up and take with him if he ever had to leave in a rush. Jiang Fengmian had helped create the pouch, giving him that security, he needed to live happily at Lotus Pier. He sighed as he looked around the room, making sure to take what he thought meant something to him and may need. He didn’t know if he would be able to come back after this. He didn’t think he could be in the same place as Madam Yu any more.
“She’s gone too far,” he murmured to himself, “I can’t… I can’t be around her anymore. I will… I’ll end up doing something.”
Sitting on his bed, he thought deeply for a moment. He didn’t want to leave without the others knowing what was going on. While Uncle Jiang wouldn’t kick him out at all. He knew that since Madam Yu was the one in charge while he was gone, he could and would be thrown from the Sect. She wouldn’t let him stay after he had stood up to her as he had done. She wanted everyone to cower before her.
He went over to the small desk in his room and ground down some inkstone with a little water before taking up a brush and began to write a couple of letters. Wei Ying wanted to try and reassure Jiang Cheng that nothing of what had happened or was to happen was his fault. That he was a strong cultivator and that he was better than his mother believes. He made sure to add that he knew that Jiang Cheng would make one of the best Sect Leaders the Jiang Sect would ever have. That his brother needed to believe in himself more.
The letter for Jiang Yanli was just as hard to write as the one he did for his brother. He hoped that she would take the words he had said to heart. That she should ignore what her mother wants and do what makes her happy. If that meant breaking the engagement then she should do it. It was better for her to find someone that would love her than someone that couldn’t stand being around her. That didn’t even care to get to know her. And that she should train when she could, not let her mother’s words discourage her from trying to learn something she obviously wanted to.
Wei Ying sat there a little longer, staring at the two letters for a moment before picking up his brush a third time. He had one last thing to write. He had heard the disciples outside his door a few times. Wei Ying smiled, knowing that they had been making sure that Madam Yu didn’t get the chance to go near him. They often did the same thing whenever Jiang Fengmian had to leave for more than a day or two. Jiang Fengmian had protected him from his wife’s rage most of the time. He sighed, writing only a few words on the paper before folding it up. He tucked them away in a place he knew that Jiang Yanli would be able to find them as soon as she noticed that he was gone. He wandered off to his bed and settled down on it, to wait.
Wei Ying had been able to get out of dinner, but only just. He didn’t think it was a good idea to face Madam Yu, and he just didn’t wish to either. Not when he knew that something would have happened if he did show up. The woman was pissed as he could hear her yelling from around Lotus Pier. It was dark out, night had fallen and Wei Ying knew that most of the disciples and those around Lotus Pier would now be asleep. But Wei Ying was awake, lying on his bed. The cover over him concealed the fact that he was wearing his day robes, not his sleep ones. They were not the Jiang Sect ones, but a set of plain robes that he owned. He had a few of them, and now the rest of them were all packed away in his Qiankun pouch that was hidden inside his robes. Subian was also in easy reach as well. He was prepared for anything that Madam Yu would throw at him.
Wei Ying stiffened in his bed as he heard the door to his room begin to open. He could easily smell Madam Yu’s perfume drifting into the room as well as the tell-tale sound of Zidian crackling. He threw off the covers and rolled off the bed, grabbing Subian and falling easily into a stance to face the woman as Zidian split his bed into two pieces. Right where he had been laying only seconds before.
“Wei Wuxian,” She sneered at him.
Wei Ying said nothing, just stared her down. There was a hardened glint in his eyes.
“You will leave this place, and you will never return here,” she demanded of him.
“I’ll not leave here,” he countered. Though in reality, he was actually going to do so. But first, he was going to make sure that his brother and sister were going to be safe without him around.
“You will do so, or I’ll make the rest of your life on this earth a living hell!” she yelled, Zidian rushing towards him.
With a move that he often used against some of the older disciples he spared again, he was easily able to deflect it. The energy still went through him easily as it touched the metal of Subian. “My life is already hell, so what would be different. You already do your best to beat me down. You try to make me feel like shit about my own parents being gone. But I know that they are the words of a woman so jealous that she can’t see past it,” he snorted, sneering a little at the woman. He may be only thirteen years old, but he wasn’t dumb, he knew the world better than most that grew up in a Sect. He had lived on the streets for almost five years before Jiang Fengmian had come to take him in. You don’t go through something like that without learning how to read people. And for him, Madam Yu was an open book.
“I will m-”
“Oh, stop with the fucking posturing,” he spat at her, moving slowly, keeping Subian raised.
“How dare you!” she hissed, using Zidian on him again.
Wei Ying danced around it, not wanting it to touch either him or Subian, “You done?” he asked sarcastically, rolling his eyes as he dodged a second blast from the high-class spiritual weapon. “You do your best to control your family. But now, they aren’t listening to you anymore. Before they thought you were okay, they even loved you. But now, they are seeing you in a different light, they no longer see you as a mother. They see you as someone they had to put up with and live with.”
“You should have died with your parents. I want you gone, I want his bastard gone from my home!” she yelled at him, lashing out with Zidian for the third time.
Wei Ying had to wonder if she had put up some talismans around his room before entering and trying to beat him. He would have expected Jiang Cheng, who was in the room next to his, to come and see what was going on. Or at least Jiang Yanli to be called to find out what was going on. “I’m not Jiang Fengmian’s bastard. How many more times do you have to be told the truth before it gets through that fucking head of yours. He’s my cousin by blood, uncle of sorts thanks to the Sworn Brotherhood he had with my father. But that’s it!” he yelled at her. Both he and Jiang Fengmian had been telling her the same thing so many times. Even the elders of the clan had been telling her the same.
“You look like him, they all say that you’re his child!” she screamed at him, there was even a hint of hurt and betrayal in her voice. “And you are, you are, and he parades it in front of me all the time. That it is his children that are strong, that mine are weak and useless!”
“You’re so fucked up. Uncle Jian and my father were cousins. Their mothers were sisters. That’s why I look like him a little. It’s because we are related by blood! They became sworn brothers after my grandparents passed away and he had been sent to live here with Uncle Jiang and his aunt,” he explained how he looked like Jiang Fengmian once more. It was the same thing over and over with this woman. She never listened once in the last four years. Even before then, when his parents had been part of Lotus Pier still, she had been told the same thing. Her jealousy and the attitude she had towards them both, especially towards his mother had driven them away. Leaving his uncle without his brother or best friend.
“If you don’t leave, I will be punishing all of you for what you’ve done today. I’ll make sure that it will cripple all three of you. Those two little bastards are useless anyway,” she spat at him, eyes flashing as her Qi swirled around her a little.
“I will leave,” he said, knowing that she actually meant harm to her own children, “But if I find you that you’ve harmed them in any way. You’ll be wishing I had never been born. I’m not the weak child I was when I first arrived here. I’ve learned a lot more than you can even think of,” he said, as he moved quickly, making sure to nick her arm with Subian. He reached down to the blood on his sword. Touching it he quickly used it to draw an array in the air. Zidian whipped past him as he moved aside and then sent the glowing array towards her. She screamed and collapsed to the ground, shaking.
“What the hell did you do?!” she trembled as she got back to her feet, the jolts of pain still going through her.
“As I said, I listen, I learn and I make damn sure to come up with as many ways to protect those that I love. You harm them at all and it will cause you pain,” he threatened her.
“How… how did you?” she asked, shocked at the array that had been used against her.
“I will protect them. Even though I won’t be here with them, they are still my family,” he told her, eyes cold and hard as he stared her down. “I’m leaving, but you hurt them, remember the pain you went through now. While this time might have been a shock, this little thing I made has attached to your blood. You cause them any pain and it will be sent back to you as well,” he smirked, sheathing Subian.
“You’re nothing but a monster,” she hissed at him.
Wei Ying laughed darkly, “Me, a monster. I’m not the one that sneaked into a thirteen-year-old child’s bedroom with the intent to rip them apart,” he said, gesturing to the bed and the two separated pieces it was now in. “I’m not the one that has just threatened to harm their own children because they are jealous of others. I’m not the one that has called them uneless,” he shook his head at her. “That was you, you’re the monster around here. No one really cares about you anymore. Though I supposed that Uncle Jiang once did at some point in the past. Don’t know if he still will when he realises that you’re the reason why I’m no longer here. Just like you did with my parents.”
“He’d be glad to be rid of you,” she sneered at him, taking a threatening step towards him.
“You really don’t know your own family,” he told her, sighing, “It’ll be you that will be losing face for the Jiang Sect when people realise that it was you that kicked out some of his blood family. After all, this is the home of my parents, my grandparents and even great grandparents at the very least,” he added. “Though, please don’t forget, I might be gone, but if you do anything to them. Have fun dealing with the pain you’ll be in.”
“Monster!” she called him once more.
Wei Ying shrugged, “Like I care what you call me. You don’t mean shit to me. You might be the wife of my Uncle, but you’re no aunt, I don’t care about you at all. I respected the position you hold, but not you personally. I think that there are many of them here that are the same. You’ve shown to most of the people around here that you only care about yourself and your position. Do you want a good reputation? Then you should have changed that attitude of yours,” he told her, flinging another talisman at her to make sure that she wouldn’t be able to follow him, at least for a while.
“Goodbye Madam Yu, I would wish you the best, but I really don’t wish it for you,” he sneered as he turned and then left the room.
He closed the doors behind him and took a breath. He started to shake as he realised that he had fully stood up to her. For the first time since he had arrived at Lotus Pier. He had stood up to a woman that had been the cause of all of his misery that he had felt there. Taking a shaking breath, he began to walk away. Avoiding Madam Yu’s bloodhounds as they waited for their mistress to return from Wei Ying’s room.
He walked out of Lotus Pier and wondered if it would be the last time he would step into Lotus Pier. It had been his home for four years. he snorted as he thought of it a little more. He had spent four years with his parents before they had been cruelly taken from him. He then spent another four, nearly five years out on the streets of Yiling doing his best to survive. And now, he had spent another four years at Lotus Pier, in his third home.
“Looks like I can only ever have a home for a few years,” he sighed as he closed his eyes for a moment. Gripping Subian tightly he turned to Lotus Pier and bowed, “Jiang Cheng, Shijie, Uncle Jiang. I’ll try and write when I find a place that I can call home again. Thank you for being my family for so long and loving me as I love you. I’ll miss you all.”
With that, he turned around and unsheathed Subian. letting his sword hover there for a moment he then jumped onto it and sped away. Making sure to not look back, he didn’t want the temptation to be returning to his family. He couldn’t be around Madam Yu anymore. It was too dangerous to do so. She had brought something out in him he didn’t think he would ever have to use again. That dark side of him that had made sure he had been able to survive on the streets. There were predators everywhere after all. He had to do a few things to make sure he lived to see another day.
As soon as he felt that he had gotten far enough away from Lotus Pier, he landed, stumbling to his knees he shook badly. Letting himself feel everything that had just happened. He went over to a nearby tree and sat down against it. Closing his eyes, he thought of what he should be doing next. He didn’t know if he would be able to join another Sect. It wasn’t often that someone would be kicked out from a Sect, but when it did happen, it usually meant that they couldn’t be trusted and it was very hard to join another, even the smaller Sects would look down upon someone like that.
Being a rogue like his parents. He didn’t know if he would be able to do it. Compared to those that walked that path, he was still only a child. His parents had been adults when they had left the Jiang Sect. Wei Ying sighed. He didn’t know what he should do. He wanted to carry on with being a cultivator, of course, he knew that about himself at least. He wouldn’t want to dishonour the memories of his parents by not doing so. Or the time and effort that Uncle Jiang and the other disciples and teachers at Lotus Pier had put into him became as strong as he was.
Grabbing his pouch, he pulled out his map, “Where to first,” he muttered to himself, figuring out where he was and the places nearest to him. “Hmm, Yunping City. It’s large and I should be able to find a little work there as well. Might not be a night hunt, but they always need talismans and such. It’s a large city as well, larger even than Lotus Pier,” he added, making up his mind on where he was going to go. “Think I should walk, for now, wouldn’t be a good idea to exhaust myself by flying all the time,” he murmured as he stood up. He put away the map and settled his Qiankun pouch into his robes and set off on foot. The path before him led towards a village that was around a day’s full walk away. He would have to sleep properly at some point, but that would wait until he felt like he was a safe enough distance from Lotus Pier.
Wei Ying moved quietly, his bow and arrows he had taken with him were coming in handy. He was suddenly glad that he had thought to put the one that his Uncle had gifted to him in his qiankun pouch. It might be slightly decorative, but it was still sturdy and durable for what he needed. With an arrow notched, he waited for a moment as he felt his Qi reacted to the animal he was hunting. Keeping still he waited for the sharp flash, the kill sight. He let loose the arrow. It struck true on the large rabbit that he had spotted. He was hungry, he had run out of the pheasant that he had hunted yesterday. He didn’t really have the things he needed to preserve his food yet. While he could store things in his pouch it didn’t really stop them from spoiling at all. And there was nothing worse than going into your pouch and finding rotten food. It tainted everything that was in there.
“Sorry,” Wei Ying murmured as he went over and skinned the rabbit quickly. Putting the fur to one side. He would clean it up properly later on. It would be something that he would be able to sell. It wouldn’t get him much, but a few pieces of silver was always worth it. He also kept the feathers from the pheasant as well. There was no point in wasting anything that he came across. Anything could be useful from an animal after all. Butchering the rabbit down, he wrapped some of the meat for later on. For now, he wanted lunch. He had the last of the small pheasant for breakfast. And it had been an early breakfast as well.
“There,” he said as he finished cooking the meat over the open fire he had started. The meat had been skewered on some sticks that he had been able to find. Taking a bite, he pouted a little, “Could do with some spice,” he muttered. He snorted at his own words, “Wow, I am spoiled,” he shook his head and carried on eating. When he finally finished, he cleared everything up. Not wanting to leave anything out for people to find. Taking up the furs he had set aside he grabbed it and started to clean it up. Making sure that it was in good condition, ready to be sold. He had a few furs and quite a few feathers to sell when he got to the next village.
Wei Ying glanced around as he stood up, putting the Fur away. “Right, let’s carry on,” he sighed, talking to himself once more. He missed having someone to talk to. He missed his siblings and for a brief moment, he wondered how they were doing without him there. And if Uncle Jiang was now back from his Night Hunt.
He reached the village as night began to set it. But he didn’t go and find an inn to stay in. He didn’t want to use his money for that when he could just camp outside for the night. He had been doing so for the last two nights and a third one out under the stars wasn’t going to hurt him at all. Setting up an array system so that anything that came too close to him would be trapped and he would remain safe. It would also alert him should it happen, waking him up. The array was something he had invented for when he went on Night Hunts. Making sure that the entire party would be safe.
Settling down onto the bedroll he had, he pulled the blanket he had brought with him around him. While it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t exactly as warm as it had been a few weeks ago. Wei Ying knew that he would have to get something he could actually have over his head soon, a small tent or something like that. He had been very lucky so far. The rain had kept away. But he had doubted that would last for much longer. His eyes closed and he drifted off into a light sleep, keeping himself on alert even while resting.
Dawn broke the next morning and Wei Ying woke with the sun shining in his face. Grumbling about it being too early, he broke down his little camp and headed into the village proper. There wasn’t much to see yet. The people were only just making their way towards the market to set up for the day. He went over to one of them and began to talk, helping them a little. He asked his question of where he would be able to sell the fur and feathers and with a smile was directed to a small shop near where they were.
“Hello!” he called out as he entered the shop that looked as though it had only just opened as well.
“Good morning, you’re really early, so I’ve not finished setting up just yet,” came a voice from the back.
“I know, sorry for calling on you so early. But I’m really here to sell a few things,” he said, a smile on his face as he tried to look as young and as innocent as he could. Wouldn’t do for the man to know he knew how to haggle right away.
“Of course,” he called out, “Lay out your wares and I’ll see if they are good enough,” he told him as he walked over to the counter where Wei Ying now stood.
We Ying already had them out. Not wanting to be seen as a cultivator at the moment. He placed the three rabbit furs and the bundle of feathers down on the counter, “Here,” he smiled up at him, eyes wide and innocent.
“Hmm,” the man hummed as he started to inspect the goods that were placed in front of him. “Good quality, the kill mark on the furs isn’t visible much either. Whoever hunted them did a really good job in killing them swiftly,” he remarked, impressed.
“Thank you,” Wei Ying grinned widely, knowing it was a good thing for people to underestimate him.
“Ah, so you’re the hunter,” he smirked, looking up at the teenager.
“I am, my Uncle taught me everything that I needed to do,” he answered, keeping his voice light and sweet.
The man nodded and then looked at the gathered feathers, “They are in good shape, none of them are damaged in any way either,” he was impressed with the quality of the fur and feathers. He hadn’t expected that much when he had heard the voice of a young teen and not an older man.
“So, what are they worth?” he asked. He had a good idea from when he was around Lotus Pier. A good quality rabbit fur was around a silver piece. The same cost as a night in a good inn along with a meal.
“Good quality, three of them and feathers, two silver pieces,” he said, looking down at the young teenager.
“I can get a better price at Lotus Pier,” Wei Ying, pouted, “I know good quality like this go for around a silver piece each. So how about… four,” he bargained, suppressing a little smirk.
“The feathers aren’t worth a silver piece at all,” the man shook his head, leaning against the counter, “How about three silver pieces for all of it,” he countered the young teens’ offer.
Wei Ying thought about it and then nodded. “Deal!” he grinned. He knew that the feathers weren’t worth much. He didn’t have enough of them to be able to sell them for a piece of silver. They might be if he had around five pheasant’s worth of feathers. But with one, he was lucky he had even been able to sell them. And the rabbit furs may be a silver piece at Lotus Pier but that was because they sold for higher there. Wei Ying had looked around the shop and seeing the prices, for his quality furs, he would have been lucky to get a silver piece for two of them. They weren’t in heavy demand in smaller outlying villages. The owner handed over the promised three silver pieces and Wei Ying tucked them away, “Thank you,” he smiled.
“And thank you,” the man laughed at him as he started putting the fur and feathers away.
Wei Ying walked through the village, looking at the market stalls. He picked up a few things that he would need but didn’t buy a tent. He would wait for Yunping for that. He only had to travel for half a day’s walk to get there. He hoped he would be able to reach Yunping before the night came. He was also going to be trying to find an actual inn to sleep during the night while there. Wei Ying wondered as he was leaving the village if he would be able to barter to get a free place to stay at all. He moved at a quick pace, wanting to make good time to Yunping so he could find somewhere.
The sun was beginning to descend as Wei Ying reached Yunping. He had made good time and started to talk to some of the people that were still walking around the city. “Hello,” he greeted an old woman politely, helping her pick up some of her wares. Making sure that she could see him giving them back to her.
“Thank you, young man,” she smiled, nodding at him.
“I’m new here, and I’m looking for a place to stay. Do you know of any good places that aren’t that expensive?” he asked her, trying to sound young and unsure.
“Ah, there are a few places around. There is the Orchid Inn, it’s over there, just past the tanners. There is also the Jade Inn, they are rather cheap at the moment. But that’s because they’ve been having a few problems. They are really nice though. The last one would be a Blue Moon, they are very nice there, but a little more expensive than the other two,” she said, pointing out which direction each of them was.
“Thank you, Granny,” he grinned at her as he headed to where the Jade Inn was located. If they had some problems, he might be able to help. Or something that he would be able to barter with them for a few days’ stay. He wanted to try and find a few jobs around the city before he moved on. Bulk out some of his money and gather what he needed to make travelling that little bit easier.
Reaching the Inn, he stopped and looked around. It was a nice place, just beside the river that ran through the city. He remembered the place from when he had visited with Jiang Cheng and Uncle Jiang, the one when they had business in Yunping. But that had been a couple of years ago now. He was a little older and hoped that he wouldn’t be easily remembered. He walked towards the inn and greeted the woman that stood there, “Hello.”
“Hello,” she smiled warmly, “Not often that we have visitors at the moment,” she told him.
“I’m new in town. I heard that you have had a few problems. I’m looking for rather cheap accommodation. But I’m willing to help in any way that I can for cheap board and food?” he suggested as he went over to her.
“Well,” she said, giving him a once over, “The problem we have is that the river has been eating away underneath the surface. Because of that, we’ve got a little flooding in some of the basement rooms. So, I doubt that there would be anything that you’ll be able to help with,” she told him, shaking her head.
“How about I have a look at a few things out in the river and then in the basement to see if there is something I can do. If there is then maybe?” he gave her a cheeky grin.
The woman laughed, “If you find a way to correct the problem then I’ll give you free board and food here for a week,” she promised him.
“That would be very fair. I’ll have a look now,” he grinned as he left the inn and headed to the river. He took off his outer robes and folded them. Hiding them and his pouch away on the river bank. He added a talisman to them, making sure that no one would be able to take them. He walked to the edge of the river and jumped in. It was slightly murky and with a twist of his spiritual energy, the water around him cleared enough that he could see. Using his Golden Core to slow his need for breathing he began to look around. He knew what he could do as soon as he saw the problem. it would take him a few days to fully sort it out, as he would need to get some extra dirt to pack the hole that had formed. And then a talisman on the other side to make sure that the place would be waterproof and stop it from happening again. Something similar had happened in Lotus Pier a few times, and they had used the same method that time as well.
He got out of the river, shaking himself off of excess water and drying himself a little before putting on his outer robe again. “Granny,” he called out as he walked in, seeing that she was serving dinner to a few of her patrons that were staying at the inn.
“You found something out already?” she asked him, a little shocked that he had come back too quickly.
“I know what the problem is and I also know how to fix it. It’ll take me a couple of days, but it won’t happen again afterwards. I’ve helped with this sort of problem before. I may need a little help with some of it, but that will be all,” he answered her quietly as she walked over to him.
“My eldest son should be able to help you, can you explain what you’ll need to do?” she asked him, curious as to what he needed to do.
Wei Ying nodded and did so before he was happily shown to a room. A meal was sent up for him, along with what was needed for a hot bath. The Inn Keeper had noted that he was still a little damp from the river.
Wei Ying had been working on the Inn’s problem for the last day. It had been going well so far. The Innkeeper’s son had been able to help him out a lot as well. And he was getting through the work a lot faster because of it. The only thing that was left to be done now was to get rid of the water that was in the basement. Then he would be able to put down the talisman that would stop water from getting in from the river again. Though the Innkeeper and her son would be taking care of that part of the problem. She had insisted that he go and help a few other places along the waterfront. All of them had been having trouble with minor cases of flooding recently. There had been a lot of heavy rain that year.
Wei Ying smiled as he walked out of the second place he was helping out. This one wasn’t as bad as the Inn. While there was some water getting into the building, it was more because the river was swelling badly each time the rain came. No matter how they shored things up, it was still getting in. Wei Ying had used the things he had learned from the businesses around Lotus Pier to help them. Also adding a talisman that would help keep the barricades stronger for a lot longer. He was getting paid with fifteen silver pieces from each store. Which he was putting away for later.
Wei Ying didn’t notice where he was walking as he bumped into someone. He fell backwards, his sword clanging a little on the hard-packed ground of the street. “I’m sorry,” Wei Ying said, as he reached for his sword.
“No, I’m sorry Young Master. I should have been paying attention to where I was going,” came the only scared voice of a young teenager.
“No, I’m sorry,” Wei Ying insisted as he got up, helped by the teenager, “I have my head in the clouds a lot at times,” he smiled, “And please, don’t call me Young Master, I’m not one at all,” he added.
“But you-” he began.
“I may be a cultivator, but I’m more of a rogue than one that belongs to a Sect,” he told him quietly.
“I’m still sorry,” he said, bowing to him.
“Please, stop, we’re both sorry and we should leave it at that. I’m Wei Ying, courtesy Wuxian,” he said, bowing back at him.
“I’m Meng Yao, no… no courtesy,” he introduced himself.
“Come, let’s go and have some lunch,” Wei Ying grinned, “My treat,” he added. He knew that he should be saving his money, but the young teenager looked at him so sadly, as though there was a weight on his shoulders.
“I… I thank you, but I really shouldn’t,” Meng Yao said, shaking his head as he tried to leave.
Wei Ying grabbed his hand and stopped him, “No, you’re coming with me,” he told him, and started to pull him along. Meng Yao didn’t fight him at all. “So, what’s wrong?” he asked as he slowed down, heading to the Inn for lunch. Their food was good, spiced just right, though he wouldn’t mind it if it was a little hotter.
“I… I am trying to decide what I should do next,” he said as he pulled out a small pearl button.
Wei Ying looked at it and then sighed heavily, “I know of them,” he said quietly.
“What… what do you mean?” he asked, looking from the button to the young teenager beside him.
“Those buttons, or something like it, are given to those that Jin Guangshan promises to come for. Madam Jin talks about them a lot. She said that they are just worthless little trinkets that her husband gives out to get what he wants from a woman…” he trailed off as he saw the upset look on Meng Yao’s face. “I’m sorry,” he winced as he realised what he said.
“No, no I think I needed to know what you know about him. He is… my father,” Meng Yao said quietly, “He was with my mother for a while. There… there was something else to it, a promise made with her, and then he just didn’t come back. I was around four when I last saw him. Mother always wanted me to go to the Jin Sect and become part of it.”
“I wouldn’t. That is the one place that I will never, ever go to. Even if it is the last Sect to try and join. I wouldn’t. I’d rather stay as a rogue, to be honest with you. It may look nice and good, what with their wealth and gold. But it’s a festering place with nothing but snakes inside it. There is so much backstabbing going on it’s not even funny,” he shook his head as they reached the Inn. “Granny!” he called out as he entered, “I brought a friend for lunch, but don’t worry I’ll be paying for him!” he grinned at her, “Can I have my usual, and what would you like?” he asked as he turned to Meng Yao.
Meng Yao stared at him for a moment, unsure what to make of the sudden change in attitude. One moment Wei Ying looked and sounded so grown up and adult to him. The next he was more like a young kid. “Oh, I’ll have the same,” he said smiling at the Inn Keeper.
“It’s really spicy,” Wei Ying warned him before the Inn Keeper could leave.
“I love spice,” Meng Yao gave a small smirk, “I just don’t get many chances to have it most days.”
“Same here at the moment. Travelling and that makes it a little hard to find the spices or to make sure that I have enough money for them,” Wei Ying said with a shrug as he made his way over to a nice quiet corner, “So, you wanted to know more about the Jin Sect and Jin Guangshan?” he asked him.
“Yes, please,” Meng Yao said, getting ready for the disappointment. He looked at him and said, “Mother wanted me to go there, to see if he would recognise me at all. He… he was meant to have taken me when I was still young. She asked me to do so when she was dying. I have… a couple more days to decide what I should do before the Madam throws me out.”
“Madam…” Wei Ying said softly, knowing exactly what the term was used for most of the time.
“I… my mother… She was a prostitute at the brothel here. That’s how my father and she had me. He paid her to have me. There are teas to prevent such things after all,” he explained quietly, almost ashamed of his origins.
Wei Ying tutted, “Head up and keep it up, don’t be ashamed of your birth.”
“Sorry, most look down upon me because of it,” he said meekly.
“Being meek doesn’t suit you,” Wei Ying said, looking at him critically, “I can see you have a high intelligence, so don’t hide away. Wouldn’t do you any good to do so,” he pointed out. “I did that, I regret it,” he sighed as he thought of all that he would hide when he was at Lotus Pier. Maybe if he had shown everything, he would have been able to stop madam Yu and her vendetta against him sooner. He may not have even left. “Right,” he said, changing the subject, “The Jin Sect. Well, they have a lot of money to their name. But they aren’t the best when it comes to cultivation. They tend to just throw money at any problems that they come across instead of dealing with it properly. Though if you go back a couple of generations, you’ll find out that they were quite strong. It’s only with Jin Guangshan that the Sect has lowered its standards when it comes to cultivation. Not many of them are that strong now that their training is all over the place from what I’ve seen. I think the only one that actually has some strength to them is Jin Zixuan. The heir of the Sect and your half-brother,” he pointed out to him, thinking of all that he had been able to gather from his visits to Koi Tower when he had been made to go with Jiang Yanli.
“So why are they still considered a Great Sect then if their cultivation strength isn’t that high?” he asked, not sure how the classification was given out to the Sects.
“A Great Sect is made up of more than just the strength of its disciples. There are a number of things that factor in. Strength, number of Disciples, money, trades routes. Things like that. With a lot of money and a good number of trade routes, they still have the classification because of three of those factors. It’s the odd disciple that takes their training seriously, which are the ones that do the bulk of the Night Hunts for the Jin Sect,” he told him, “Now let’s take the Jiang Sect, they have all four. Though their numbers are the second smallest along with Money. It’s their trade that is the highest for the Jiang Sect. For the Lan and the Wen Sects, it’s their strength of cultivators that keep them the most powerful, along with money. The Wen don’t really trade much, the Lans do slightly better with trade than they do. But the Lan Sect’s number of disciples is smaller than the other Great Sects. The strength of the Wens has faded, but they are making up for that with the number of disciples since they are taking over many of the smaller and weaker Sects. The Nie also have strength, number and trade going for them. They are the highest for the strength of their cultivators,” he finished explaining what he knew and what he had learned as he worked alongside Jiang Cheng when he was learning himself. It was something that Jiang Cheng would need to know for when he took over the Jiang Sect, and as his right hand, Wei Ying himself would need to know as well.
“And Jin Guangshan? My father?” he asked, only stopping for a moment as the Innkeeper’s son brought over their food.
“Young Master Wei, the basement is now empty of all the water,” he said to Wei Ying.
Wei Ying nodded, “Right, that’s brilliant. I’ll go down there tonight and set up the array to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he told him, grinning.
“Thank you,” he said, giving a little bow and walking away from the pair.
“Sorry about that,” Wei Ying said with a smile, “The Inn had a bit of trouble with some flooding. So did a few more places around here. So, I’m helping out where I can and earning a bit before I leave Yunping in around a week’s time,” he told him, “Now, Jin Guangshan. I had to have dinner with him and others of the Jin Sect a few times. He was surrounded by women lavishing attention on him. His wife was nearby as well. He has no respect for women. He has more children than just you. Some have turned up at the Jin Sect and each one was turned away, by Jin Guangshan himself. I don’t know if they were the same as you, and he paid the woman to have the child. But I know that he wouldn’t take in any child that was his. He never has. Madam Jin wouldn’t allow it either,” he told him.
“So,” he began quietly, “I would have no chance to get into the Jin Sect,” he finished as he started to eat.
Wei Ying shook his head, “Not unless you’re bringing in money, power or fame for him, no. He only cares about those things and women. He’s no longer allowed in Lotus Pier at all without some kind of supervision after he accosted a maid there. He now only goes there when there is a discussion conference held at Lotus Pier. And when he does, Madam Yu’s maids are the ones that watch him.”
“Thank you, for telling me. I’ll need to figure out what I should do. I want to become a cultivator. I’ve read the manuals that I could get, but they don’t seem to ring true to me,” he murmured.
Wei Ying swallowed a few of his noodles and nodded, “Well, I’m going to be here for around a week. I don’t mind if you want to come with me. I can try and train you as well if you want.”
Meng Yao looked up from his food, surprised, “Train me?”
“Mn,” Wei Ying nodded, “Yes,” he said around another mouthful of noodles, “I trained the younger disciples at Lotus Pier. I know you’re older than me, but I was able to form a Core a lot quicker than the others. And those that were under my tutelage, well they did so as well. I could help you, or at least teach you the basics of the sword forms and the ones that my mother used. My Uncle taught them to me and said that I should know how she was able to fight.”
“I… I’m unsure if I should,” Meng Yao said, shaking his head. He knew that it was going to be the best opportunity he had to learn something. But he didn’t want to take advantage of the young teenager.
“Look, I don’t mind. I’m going to be around here for at least a week helping all the businesses around here. Take your time to decide,” he smiled at him.
“I will,” he nodded, smiling back, “Would you mind if I come and watch you as you work?” he then asked. A little curious as to what the teen was doing.
“Of course, I don’t mind,” he grinned, “I can teach you a few things that you can do and work on,” he added.
“Thank you, I think fate had a reason for us to meet,” Meng Yao smiled at him.
Wei Ying laughed, “Yeah, I do as well,” he grinned as he went back to eating. He began telling Meng Yao everything that he had been doing at the Inn to help them and what he would be doing for the four places that he was now helping as well.
Wei Ying walked out of the last business that he had been helping during his week and a bit in Yunping. It had taken him a little longer than he planned. But that was more because a few more places had asked for his help. He wasn’t the type to turn down any work at the moment. He had made sure to gather as much money as he could. Wei Ying didn’t know what he would be facing while he was out there on his own and he needed to make sure he would be prepared for anything.
“Ah, A-Ying,” came a voice as someone rushed towards him.
“Yao-ge,” Wei Ying grinned at the older teenager. Meng Yao had been going with him as he worked a few times. Though he knew that Meng Yao had also taken to doing a little work around the place as well. “That was my last job,” he told him, “So I’ll be leaving sometime tomorrow morning,” he said, though it was only midday as he glanced up at the sky.
“I know,” he said softly, “I’ve decided about what I want to do next,” he murmured as the two of them began to walk towards the markets.
“Yeah?” he asked. He had hoped he would do so soon, as he wouldn’t mind someone else being with him as he travelled around. Being alone wasn’t exactly fun. He missed having someone to talk to, and Meng Yao was really smart. He would be able to talk to him about the talismans that he was working on and things like that.
“Yes. I’m going to go with you. I know my mother wanted me to try and see my father. But he left me at the age of four and never came back again. It’s obvious to me that he doesn’t want me. I won’t go to him. If he wants me…” he trailed off, looking away and sighing.
“If he wanted you, then he would have been there for you right from the start and never left you to doubt him and his care and love for you,” Wei Ying finished for him. “Yeah, I get you, I understand,” he nodded, agreeing.
“I think going with you is the best thing that I can do for myself. I can’t remain here, all that people see when they look at me is the son of a prostitute. Those that I’ve done work for don’t even want to pay me properly. They make up so many excuses about the quality of my work that they pay me less. And since I don’t have any family to speak of, they get away with it all the time,” he sighed, hating that his birth was the cause of most of the problems in Yunping. There was one job where he knew that, that would be an asset, but he wasn’t going to sell himself. And while he may have been born in the brothel, he didn’t have a contract with them at all. His mother made sure of that. He worked for them, but only as a servant for them, he was even paid a little for what he did.
“Good. I was hoping you would say yes about coming with me. We should start getting what we need together. You’ll need a few more robes, some thick ones as well to make sure you’re protected against the cold. And some that I can modify a little with sewn-in talisman to help with the rain. I know that it doesn’t get too cold down here, but other places will be different. We’re going to need a large tent as well. I have one Qiankun pouch at the moment, but it would be a good idea to get a second one. I think I remembered seeing a cultivation peddler nearby. Heard him talking. I’ll see what his wares are like before I buy them. And don’t worry, I know what I’m looking for when we need a good quality one,” he grinned at Meng Yao as he began to list the things that they would need before they left Yunping. He had only the basics when he had left Lotus Pier, now was a good time to really outfit themselves. He would also need more cultivation materials, like cinnabar and talisman paper. He was beginning to run low. Thankfully they weren’t that expensive and most of the places that cater to cultivators would have both in stock and plenty of them.
“Are you sure it would be fine to buy all that?” Meng Yao asked, eyes wide at the list that was being made.
“Yeah, we’ll need everything I’ve mentioned and maybe even a few more things. The markets should be open for a while longer yet since it’s only lunchtime. Come on,” he laughed brightly as he grabbed Meng Yao’s hand and started to lead him around. Going from one stall to another and even into some of the larger shops that were around, all the while happily explaining what he was getting and why he was getting it. Meng Yao watched in awe at how Wei Ying was able to haggle nearly everyone down to get the best price he could for their wares.
“You’re really good at haggling,” Meng Yao finally said as they reached Wei Ying’s room at the inn to go through the purchases.
“Have to be really,” Wei Ying said as he looked up, “I lived on the streets for a while before I was taken in by someone. I knew how to haggle listening to the old ladies around the market. I then started to practice a little when I was at Lotus Pier with the stipend that I got. I always saved as much as I could. Since you never knew what could happen,” He shrugged, he had saved a lot during his time at Lotus Pier. Adding that to what he had earned selling furs and feathers over the last couple of weeks. And along with the work during his time in Yunping, he had almost four hundred silver pieces. Now he was just over 60 silver pieces lighter thanks to what he had needed. Though he had expected to spend about one hundred silver pieces, but then again, the joys of haggling was great when you knew how to do it right.
Meng Yao nodded as he watched Wei Ying inspect everything again before starting to pack everything away into the two Qiankun pouches he now had. The first was his original one, there was a purple lotus on the black material. The other was a plain blue one that he had brought, “Are we truly ready?” he asked him.
“We are,” he smiled, “Tomorrow, we’re both going to be leaving Yunping behind us. So, make sure you get a good night’s sleep,” he advised the older teenager.
The sixteen-year-old nodded, “I will,” he said, his heart beginning to pound as he started to second guess himself a little.
“Oh, and Meng Yao,” he said as the teen got up to leave the room, “Catch!” he said, throwing a large bundle at him, “I found out that it was your birthday today, so, Happy Birthday,” he smiled.
Meng Yao caught the package and looked at it, “You… you didn’t have to get me anything at all,”
“I know, but I wanted to get my Yao-ge a little something nice for his birthday,” he grinned at him, “And one of them I’ve been working on for a few days already,” he grinned.
“I… thank you,” he nodded, almost going into a bow before he remembered that Wei Ying would moan at him if he did. He hadn’t really expected anyone else to care apart from Sisi that he was now actually sixteen years old. She had given him a little something to take with him when he told her that he would be leaving. She had been the main one, the only one that had talked him into going with Wei Ying.
“Welcome, now open it!” he gushed as he waited for Meng Yao to sit back down for a few moments to do so.
Meng Yao laughed brightly as he sat back down and opened it. Inside was a nice thick cloak, along with a bow and a quiver of arrows. “Wow,” he said as he pulled out the cloak first. It would keep him warm during their travels and dry, he could even feel a tingle from the material that meant that something else had been done to it. He looked at Wei Ying questioningly.
“I’ve sown some talismans and arrays into the lining. It will make sure that it will keep you warm and dry, and even cooler if the weather goes warm,” he grinned, “I did the same with mine. And I’ll be doing it with the extra cloaks that we got today along with a few more protective ones for the robes.”
“Thank you,” he smiled, putting it back gently, as though he was afraid that he would damage it if he handled it too much. He then picked up the bow, it was well crafted, though not as decorated as the one he saw Wei Ying holding at times. But still beautifully made and it looked like it was made to last as well.
“I thought you should have one. I’ll be teaching you how to use it as well, and even how to make your own arrows. You should know how to do so, for when we need to hunt,” he told him. They were practical gifts but he knew that even if Meng Yao had decided to remain in Yunping he would have been able to use them.
“Thank you, A-Ying,” he smiled, “I shall leave you to your sleep. We’ll meet here in the morning for breakfast?” he said, suggesting what they would do in the morning.
“Yeah,” he grinned, nodding, “A large breakfast to really get us going, so yeah, I’ll see you in the morning Yap-ge,” he finished.
Meng Yao got up once more and left the room. A happy smile on his face as he went to spend a little time with Sisi before he had to say goodbye to her. Though he hoped that one day he would be able to come back and buy out her contract. To free a woman he thought of as a second mother.
The next morning came and by lunchtime, the two of them were well on the road towards another village. They only stopped walking when it started to get dark. The first couple of days they had to get used to being around each other and sleeping in the same tent. On the third day, Wei Ying had them remain where they had camped that night.
“Right, today, I’m going to get you to practice meditation a little. Since I’m not that good at the meditation thing,” he laughed, “Mainly, I’m going to start showing you how to build a Golden Core. Most people would have done this before they were ten. So, you’re a little behind, and most would say that you’re too old to become a strong cultivator now. I call bullshit on that, and we’ll prove it to them as well,” he told Meng Yao as he sat down before him. It was a warm day, so they remained outside in front of their tent.
“What do I do first?” Meng Yao asked, a bubble of excitement going through him at the thought of actually being able to start forming a Golden Core.
“First, close your eyes, and then I want you to feel around you with your senses. There should be that little bit of thread that is coming from the ground, the trees and everything around you. Everything should have a little thread of something coming from it that you’ll start to feel.”
“Okay,” Meng Yao nodded as he closed his eyes and began to try and feel around him. It took him a while but as his mind relaxed even more he started to sense something, almost tickling him as they lazily brushed past him, “I can feel them. They’re everywhere!”
“Good, now find the one that comes from the ground right beneath you, or as close to you as it can be,” Wei Ying instructed him, “And then pull on it a little bit. It should flow into you slightly. Just a bit, but enough for what we need.”
Meng Yao did as he was told and started to pull on it. He gasped aloud as a warmth went through him.
“Now, gently direct it around your body first, before getting it to pool in your dantian,” Wei Ying told him, a smile on his face as he watched Meng Yao following his instructions.
Meng Yao shook a little as he did so. He could feel his body opening to something more as he directed the energy around and then settled it into his dantian. He did this for a while, wondering when Wei Ying would stop him.
“Okay, now stop,” Wei Ying told him softly, “You shouldn’t do it for too long, as the Natural Qi that is around us can harm us if we do that too much,” he told him.
Meng Yao stopped and the cold that followed as the Natural Qi began to leave him. It made him want to try again already, “I feel so cold,” he murmured, shivering.
“I know, you will. But doing that is showing what your own Qi should be doing. We all have some in us. But a lot of people don’t even think to try and get it to flow right. At the moment the Natural Qi that you had was taking some of your own Qi into your Dantian. If you feel, you might even be able to find that small spark that has settled there. That is the seed that your Golden Core will be formed from,” Wei Ying told him, “Now, doing this normally will take a long time. Since it takes a while to be able to feel your own Qi and get it to pool there. This way is a lot quicker and it strengthens your core a bit faster,” he told him.
“Thank you,” Meng Yao smiled.
“Now, you need to do that each morning for a bit before we break camp. Soon enough you’ll have a newly formed Golden Core,” he told him brightly, “I’m going to start with the sword soon as well. Though for that we’ll use a good stick for now,” he mumbled a little. He then started to speak of what he wanted to teach Meng Yao for the rest of the day. He got up and then said, “We should do a bit of hunting. So, grab your bow, time for another lesson,” he grinned.
Meng Yao smiled and laughed as he followed the younger teenager into the tent and grabbed his bow and arrows. Following Wei Ying, as he took them into the small forested area around their camp, they began to hunt something for lunch and dinner. With Meng Yao listening to Wei Ying as he explained how he hunted with his Qi.
Meng Yao looked at all the goods that the two of them had been able to gather over the last week as they had travelled from Yunping City towards another village. They had spent a full day out in the forest with Wei Ying teaching him a number of things and setting it up so that Meng Yao would be able to meditate and circulate Natural Qi every morning for a bit. He could now feel the spark that was inside of him easily. He couldn’t help but be excited when Wei Ying told him that another week or two of doing that and his Golden Core should be able to form properly.
“I think seven silver pieces is good enough,” the gruff voice of the clerk said as he looked over the two deer furs that they had collected and the large bundle of feathers as well. Though Meng Yao knew that Wei Ying had kept some of them back for fletching their own arrows with.
“Deer fur is worth at least five on its own. The quality of the ones I’ve brought is good. The kill mark on both of them is barely visible as well,” Wei Ying pointed out to him, “The feathers are enough for at least one silver piece, maybe even two. So how about eleven pieces,” he grinned at the man, fighting the smirk that wanted to appear on his face.
“Feathers don’t sell for much,” he told him, “Eight is the most I’m going to do.”
“Feathers are used for a number of things. Decorations on some clothing, they can also be used for bedding and also sold to the armoury for fletching,” Wei Ying pointed out, “and I know that they pay more for the feathers. So, nine silvers for the furs and I’ll take the feathers to them instead.”
“Ten,” the man said, eyes narrowed as Wei Ying reached out to take the feathers back.
Wei Ying thought about it for a moment. He could get slightly better than that from the armoury for the feathers, but not by much. “Deal,” he nodded and shook the man’s hand. The clerk went and got the silver for him and handed it over. “Thank you,” he grinned as he tucked the money away and walked out of the shop. Meng Yao followed him outside.
“I always find it amazing when you’re able to talk them into giving you the price you wanted for them before you even walked into the shop,” Meng Yao said quietly, shaking his head.
“It comes with knowing what each piece is worth on its own. A cloak that will be made from the furs can go for anything between ten and twenty pieces of silver. Fur is a luxury item, so they pay top for it. Mostly it’s the nobles and those high-level cultivators that would buy such things. And to kill without doing any damage to the fur and preparing it for sale ourselves. Well, that takes skill. Which is also what puts the cost of sale up a little for me. If I just handed them over, it would be worth half the price,” he told him, as he broke things down for him to be able to understand in case he had to do it himself. “Feathers are a commodity that is used in a number of places. Even the armoury shop would have been able to take the fur as well. But they aren’t that fussed about the quality of it as they will be tanning it and turning it to leather to make armour of some kind.”
“So, the higher quality fur should go to the dressmakers and the lower quality ones to the armoury?” Meng Yao asked for clarification.
“Exactly, you need to know where you can go to sell all the goods you can find. Armoury pays a little more for feathers as arrows sell really well. While armour is limited in its sale,” Wei Ying told him, nodding.
“Interesting,” Meng Yao murmured, making a mental note. He had done some shopping for the brothel at times. And while he had been able to haggle a little, it wasn’t to the extent that Wei Ying had been able to do so.
“Right, now that’s done. Let’s have some lunch somewhere nice as a little treat,” Wei Ying smiled, “We’re doing well for money at the moment,” he added, seeing the look on Meng Yao’s face.
“Are you sure we are?” he asked, he had seen what they had and while it was a lot there was always something that could happen to cause it to lessen easily.
“I am,” Wei Ying nodded, “Come on. We could do with something hot and spicy,” he grinned, “Oh, that reminds me, we need to go to the market as well get a few things there for when we cook our food.”
Meng Yao followed as Wei Ying led them to one of the cheaper inns. They ordered food and Meng Yao had to admit that it was nice to sit down to lunch in an actual inn or restaurant for a change. Though this was the first time they had done so since they had left Yunping.
“The food is rather good,” Meng Yao said as he looked over at Wei Ying.
Wei Ying nodded around the extra spicy rice that he was eating, “It is. What do you think about getting some spices that we can use for our own food?” he asked him.
“A good idea, it would be nice to have a bit of extra flavour. And we should buy some more rice as well, we’re beginning to run low,” he added, nodding in agreement.
“We’ll get some more. I’m thinking about trying to design a qiankun pouch that would be able to hold food for a long time without spoiling. I know that a talisman can keep something fresh for a little longer. But they haven’t been paired with a pouch yet. Might be something that I can see about working on,” he muttered as he tried to wonder what the arrays were on the qiankun pouch. He had never been able to have a look at them too much when he had been at Lotus Pier. But he knew of a way to bring them out enough so he could see how they were put together. That would be a good starting point for him.
“If you can do that, it would be really helpful. We’ve lost a bit of meat because of spoilage,” Meng Yao nodded, smiling softly at his friend and, he supposed, his younger brother now.
Wei Ying grinned, “I will,” he promised.
The two carried on eating and when they finished, they headed over to the market to stock up on a few things that they were low on. Including some spices and dried herbs to help flavour their foods a little more.
Meng Yao finished his morning meditation a few days after leaving the last village. He was curious as to why Wei Ying was going around as a Rogue Cultivator. He had enough skills to easily be taken into a Sect. He would be a great asset to them. Though maybe it was time to ask why. “A-Ying,” he said quietly, calling to the other as he was going through his sword forms. They were the ones that Jiang Fengmian had taught to him, telling him that it was the forms that his mother had used.
“Yeah?” Wei Ying said as he moved swiftly through them still.
“When… When you’re done, I would like to ask you something,” he told him as he settled down to watch and wait for Wei Ying to finish.
“Okay!” he called out as Wei Ying sped through the last set of forms and then stretched a little before letting himself cool down. “What do you want to ask?” he questioned as he went over and sat down before him.
“I’m curious as to what happened to you that made you leave Lotus Pier? You talk about the place and those in it with such fondness,” he asked, unsure if he would get an answer from the younger teenager.
Wei Ying sat there in silence for a while, “Madam Yu, she is the Lady of Lotus Pier. She has always believed that I am Sect Leader Jiang’s son. I’m not, he’s my cousin or something like that. His mother and my grandmother were sisters. My father and my uncle Jiang were sworn brothers as well. That’s how I’m related to him. She has never believed it. No matter how much proof we’ve given her, including the records and such, sect records about it. She still thinks that I’m his child.”
“What does that have to do with you no longer being there anymore?” Meng Yao queried, frowning in confusion.
“The last day that I was there, she was doing her usual thing. Lashing out at me, insulting my parents again, insulting me and my abilities as a disciple. She was threatened by me being there. Since to her, Uncle Jiang favours me. He doesn’t, he treats us all the same. But as soon as Uncle Jiang treats me nicely, she jumps on it and blows it all up. And everyone forgets that he has just done the same things with Jiang Cheng and Shijie,” he shrugged. “This time,” he continued, “She stated on Jiang Cheng as well. It hurts so much to see my little brother being told that he was worthless and useless to his face. Jiang Cheng is really smart. Not like me, but the other disciples will follow him easily. He’s better able to lead them than I am,” he smiled a little, “I stood up to her this time. Told her off about what she was doing. She didn’t like it and whipped me. Thankfully they’ve all healed up, nothing left but a bit of scarring. One of the reasons why I wanted to stay around Yunping for a bit longer was to give them more time to finish healing.”
“I saw them,” Meng yao said, meaning the scars on his face, “I had wondered how you got them, there are not many people that are whipped like that.”
“True,” he smiled a little, “Uncle Jiang wasn’t around. She came to my room that night and started to threaten to hurt Shijie and Jiang Cheng if I didn’t leave. I was planning on leaving anyway. I can’t be around her anymore without wanting to do something… permanent to her for what she is putting them through,” he told him honestly, wincing a little as he revealed something about himself that he hadn’t wished to.
“You have that urge as well?” Meng Yao asked, “The urge to fight back, to harm someone that has hurt you and others?” His voice was small, as though he was afraid of the answer he would receive.
Wei Ying looked at him, “I do. I did hurt her as I left. I basically used a curse of my own invention on her to make sure that she wouldn’t be able to harm Shijie or Jiang Cheng,” he said, huffing a laugh. His smile dropped, “I… I’ve killed someone before. When I lived on the streets. He was… was trying to do something to me and I fought back. I’m not ashamed of it really, it was something that I had to do to survive.”
Meng Yao nodded in understanding, “It’s fine. I understand that.”
“Thank you, for not judging me,” Wei Ying told him, flashing him a small smile.
Meng Yao smiled back, “I’ve hurt a few of the clients that my mother or Sisi had. Especially those that hurt her. Only a little poison to make them ill, nothing more than that. But I have to say that I was more than tempted to do them some serious harm sometimes.”
“Hmmm,” Wei Ying nodded, “come on, we should break camp now and start heading to the next village,” he said as he got up, dusting himself up. The thirteen-year-old felt a lot better after letting Meng Yao in on his true self a little. He hoped he would never have to use that side of him again.
“Yeah,” Meng Yao smiled gently, doing the same as the two of them broke down the camp and packed their things away.
“Should we do some hunting on the way? We could get something small for lunch and maybe even for dinner?” Wei Ying suggested as they finished and started to walk away from where they had spent the night.
“Yes, we’ve run out of the deer meat that we had. We only have a little bit of pheasant left as well. Might just be enough for the two of us for lunch, but that would be about it,” Meng Yao said, he had been the one to volunteer on keeping an eye on their food levels. “We should also look around for some more vegetables as well. I don’t know how long it will be before we hit the next village.”
“Yeah, I’m still trying to work out that pouch idea as well. The arrays that are on them mess too much with the talismans that preserve food. So may have to come up with something totally new to make it work,” he muttered, kicking a stone in annoyance as they walked.
“You’ll figure it out A-Ying, you’re really smart you know,” Meng Yao encouraged him.
Wei Ying smiled at him, “I will Yao-ge, with you cheering me on,” he teased lightly, laughing at the look he was given. The two walked, talking quietly as they headed down the path through the forest. Only stopping as it got nearer to lunch to try and hunt a little food. This time Meng Yao was the one to make the kill and skin the rabbit that he had killed. The two ate and carried on as they had done each day since they had joined up together. With Wei Ying teaching him and Meng Yao learning as much as he could as they walked.
Jiang Fengmian smiled at the disciples that were with him. They had worked hard on their Night Hunt. It hadn’t been an easy one either. It had been full of danger and they almost had a serious injury. Thankfully they had all banded together well and had been able to overcome the large monster and the three small ones with it, that had taken residence in the forest.
“Go and wash up, write your reports, but you don’t have to report for full duty for two days. Take some time to relax and recover,” he ordered them as they turned around and as one, they bowed to him.
“Thank you, Sect Leader,” they said before they marched away, talking quietly amongst themselves.
Jiang Fengmian walked through Lotus Pier, a little frown on his face as he noted how quiet it was. He had only been gone for five days. Usually, after that amount of time, he would be hearing a lot of yelling and laughter from someone within the compound.
“Father!” came a voice as he saw his daughter running towards him, her eyes red and full of tears. Just a step behind her was her brother. Jiang Cheng looked just as upset as his daughter.
“A-Li? A-Cheng? What’s wrong?” he asked, as he wrapped his arms around them both as they hugged him tightly.
“Mother, it was mother, she… she did something to him. I know she did!” Jiang Cheng yelled, shaking his head as though he was trying to bury it within his father’s robes. “I don’t want her here anymore, I want her gone father. Please?! She hurt Wuxian!” he began to cry, tightening his hold on his father. He was scared of what his mother had done to his brother. She had said nothing to either him or Jiang Yanli about it, the only thing she had mentioned was that he had been taken care of. Fear was in his heart about what exactly she had done.
“What do you mean?” he asked, confused as he looked between his two children. Noticing that Wei Ying wasn’t there to greet him either.
“Mother and A-Xian had a confrontation a few days ago. Not long after you left. But he… he isn’t here anymore, and she won’t tell us what happened,” Jiang Yanli told him, wiping away her tears.
“Okay,” he nodded as he then went to go and find his wife. His two children trailing behind him, both of them looking scared to even see the woman. “My Lady,” he greeted the woman as she stood near where the disciples were practising.
Madan Yu turned her head and stared at him for a moment before going back to watching the disciples and barking orders at them when one of them made a small mistake.
“Where is A-Ying?” he asked her bluntly.
“Gone, he’s back where he should have been in the first place, on the streets!” she yelled at him, turning to face him once more, “He is nothing but a waste of space and I will not have him in this Sect any longer. You may be happy with parading around your bastard, but I will not have your infidelity thrown in my face,” she hissed at him as she stood up and stalked towards him. Her maids on either side of her.
“How many times do I have to tell you that he is my nephew!” he yelled back. It had been the same argument for the last four years. “He is the son of my sword brother, my cousin Wei Changze. Don’t you even look at the records, don’t you even talk to the elders of our Clan!?” he asked her, “Now what did you do to A-Ying!?” he demanded to know. Seeing how scared his children looked as they stared at their mother.
“I did what I should have done from the moment he walked in, I punished him. I whipped him as much as I could before he escaped from me, and then I threw him from this Sect. He doesn’t belong here, he’s nothing but a street rat, a servant at the most and you treat him like you do A-Cheng. A-Cheng is your son and you don’t even care about him!” she berated him, in front of the entire Sect.
“I love my son, A-Cheng is my child, how could I not care. A-Li is my beloved daughter. You always say I don’t love them, but I love them more than you,” he told her, “And I have done since the moment they were placed in my arms that very first time. I would happily die for them if it meant they were happy and safe. And yes, A-Ying is included in that. He may only be my nephew, but I promised my brother and my mother that I would look after him as my own.”
“It doesn’t matter now, he’s gone and he won’t ever be coming back,” she smirked as she began to turn away.
“You are now to be confined,” he told her, “You may be the Lady in name only of this Sect, as the position is now, no longer yours,” he added, his voice cold as he glared at the woman.
“You can’t do anything against me,” she reminded him, getting up from her seat, “We have a contract, remember,” she smirked.
“We may have a contract, but as soon as Jiang Cheng turns sixteen our marriage can finally be dissolved and it will be. And the contract doesn’t protect you from punishment in Sect, it just prevents me from kicking you out. As of this moment, you are no longer the Lady of Lotus Pier. You have harmed those of this Sect and caused us to lose face. For the crimes you have committed you will be confined to Lotus Pier. You will no longer leave here. Not to visit anyone, and those that come here to visit you will be vetted by me,” he told her bluntly.
“How have I lost us face? How!” she demanded to know, yelling in his face.
“What do you think will happen when people find out that you drove A-Ying from his home? From the Sect of his father and grandparents and his great grandparents?” he asked her, shaking his head, “This is where he belonged before you even start. His father was born here as was his whole family. They are all here. The few blood relatives that Wei Ying had lived here. Though there is only a great uncle left now, they were here. That has always been a Wei within the Jiang Sect. And you are ruining that,” he told her, sneering, “From now on, you are alone. You will train with no other, you will speak with no other. The only time someone else will be with you is myself, a visitor or your maids and that is all. If A-Cheng and A-Li wish, they can speak with you. But I doubt it,” he spat
“Father,” Jiang Yanli said as she spotted him and walked over to him, Jiang Cheng right beside her, “Have you thought about what you are going to be doing to find A-Xian?” she asked him, worried for her little brother.
“I’ve sent people out to start the search for him. I need to finish sorting things out here and then I can leave to look for him,” he told her, reassuring both of his children that he would be looking for their brother soon. He turned to the disciples that Madam Yu had been instructing and said, “I want all disciples and servants to be in the main courtyard within the hour, spread the word,” he ordered them.
“Yes, Sect Leader!” they called out as one, bowing to him.
“You are dismissed Madam Yu, no longer will you train those of the Jiang Sect,” he said, glancing at the woman in distaste for a second before looking at his children.
Madam Yu stared at him for a moment, looking at her children, expecting them to say something. Instead, they turned away from her, showing her that they no longer cared for her. She growled as she stormed away, her two loyal maids following behind her. Just under an hour later Jiang Fengmian was in front of the people of the Jiang Sect, all of them. He informed them all that they were no longer to listen to Madam Yu. That any orders she tried to give, had to go through him. The only thing that they would do would be basic care for the servants, laundry, room tidy and cooking her food. No longer will they be punished for the perceived wrongs that she put on them or anything. That they were to politely tell her that they have orders to no longer listen to her. And if she raises anything towards them, to harm them, that they are to immediately inform him and that she will be forced into seclusion for a month each time she does so.
Servants and disciples were shocked by the command, but some were glad. Especially those that helped Wei Ying, as they often were singled out by Madam Yu for the worst of jobs. They left the courtyard as Jiang Fengmian’s children went over to the father once more. Taking to training them a little before dinner was to start.
“When you leave to find Wuxian, I want to go with you,” Jiang Cheng said at dinner that night. It was only him, his sister and their father. His mother had been invited to sit with them but had decided to take her meals in her room. She was trying to make them feel guilty about not having her around. But it had the opposite effect, they were glad of the reprieve from her iciness.
“A-Cheng,” Jaing Fengmian began. “I know you wish to come with me so I-” he began, only to be cut off by Jiang Yanli.
“If it’s about taking care of the Sect, then I can do that Father,” she said earnestly, “I know I’m not that much of a cultivator, but I can take charge of the Sect. I know the training and while I may not be able to do all of it yet, I can still instruct the younger disciples at least. And we have several very competent seniors that will be able to lead the older ones that are more advanced,” she pointed out, hoping that her father would take her brother with him.
“Please,” Jiang Cheng pleaded, “A-Jie would be able to take care of things,” he continued looking at his father.
“I’ll be taking you with me A-Cheng,” he laughed lightly, “I had already decided to do so. I’m going to be doing some more training before I leave and then we will be going,” he told his son, a soft smile on his face, even though they were all worried for Wei Ying.
“Do you… think he’s okay?” Jiang Yanli asked quietly, looking down at her food. She was only just managing to eat, wondering and worrying if Wei Ying was okay at all if he had food and shelter.
“He is a resourceful young man,” Jiang Fengmian reassured her, “you don’t have to worry so much about him.”
“But she hurt him. She whipped him so much that the healer said that he should rest for a while before returning to his duties. What if… what if they got worse?” Jiang Cheng said, “She… she stopped us from sending anyone out to go and look for him.”
“Wei Ying went through a lot when he was living on the streets, A-Cheng. I’ve no doubt that he is strong enough to cope and take care of himself until we can find him and bring him home,” he told him, smiling a little. He knew only a little of what his nephew had gone through. He had also made sure that he would have all that he wanted and needed hidden in his room should he wish to leave or to run. He had done it more in the hopes that it would help Wie Ying settle into his new home. Giving him that choice of staying or going. He had hoped it would never need to be used.
“I worry,” Jiang Yanli sighed as she started to eat.
Jiang Fengmian was also worried, but he knew better than to voice it at the moment, “He will be fine, and we will find him,” he reassured the two of them as they carried on eating dinner in silence.
Jiang Fengmian walked through Lotus Pier after dinner was over. His children had gone to bed and most of those around the Sect would be sleeping. He reached the ancestral hall and knelt. Lighting some incense, he bowed, “I’m sorry A-Ze, A-Ren, I failed to keep him safe and protected here,” he told his brother and best friend.
“Why do you have them here,” came a sneering and annoyed voice from behind him.
“I would ask that you show at least some respect for those that have left this Earth,” he reminded her as he turned to glare at Madam Yu for a moment before going back to looking at the tablets for Wei Changze and Cangse Sanren.
“Well, why are they here?” she asked again, walking forwards and reaching out to pick up one of the tablets.
Jiang Fengmian was quick to reach out and grab her arm, pulling it away and holding it tightly, “Do not touch them,” he sneered, eyes flashing as he pulled her away. He looked at the woman that he had done his hardest to love, “As for why they are here, where else would they be?” he demanded to know, “Look at that one and read the name on it and then tell me why they are here?” he asked her, pointing at another tablet nearby.
“Wei Yaozu,” she read, a little frown on her face.
“That is Wei Changze’s father. My father’s best friend,” he told her, “They married sisters, twin sisters in fact. Within days of each other, they were married. A-Ze was younger than me by a month. Everything that they did, they did in tandem. Just as they hoped that I and A-Ze would do. And it did, they married just before we did. I, the only witness to their vows just days before we were married. They became pregnant with a child at the same time we did. Though their eldest child was stillborn. He would have been a month older than A-Li. Their second child, their miracle was A-Ying, a few days older than A-Cheng. Five generations of Jiang and Wei have had this tandem. Marriage, children, everything, the same, within days or a month of each other. It was my mother’s generation that we were actually linked by blood rather than just bond,” he explained to her, as he looked at the tablets of his friend and brother. He glanced at her, “You have ruined that. You have taken the Wei blood from this Sect. Your jealousy drove away my siblings. And now you have done the same to my nephew. You have no care about anyone but your own pettiness and pride,” he snorted, shaking his head, “You disgust me. Now leave so I may speak to my family in peace,” he said as he dragged her out of the room and swung her out of it, slamming the door behind him.
Jiang Fengmian took a breath as he stood there for a moment before going back and kneeling. He bowed, keeping his head down as he spoke, “A-Ze, A-Ren, please, look after your son until I can find him. Please, keep him safe. I’m sorry that I let this happen. I… I truly didn’t think she would do something like this,” he apologised a few more times before he straightened up. He closed his eyes for a moment before he opened them, “I will find him, but keep him safe until then,” he repeated as he got up. Opening the doors, he saw that Madam Yu was still there, glaring at him.
“How dare you tre-”
“I will treat you like the monster that you are,” he interrupted her, “I want nothing to do with you, and I doubt your own children will want anything to do with you. Leave us be,” he said, ignoring anything more that she had to say. He headed into his room and slammed the door in her face. Wanting nothing more to do with her that night., or ever really.
Jiang Fengmian stood at the head of a large group of his most senior disciples. They had started to go through some of the training that was usually done under Madam Yu’s instruction. Jiang Fengmian was frowning at them, as they were behind where they should have been now with the amount of time they had to train with her. Though with extra training it should be easily corrected. He knew that she focused more on strength, which is what the Yu Sect focused on. While the Jiang Sect relied more on speed and accuracy. One of the reasons why they practised archery as much as they did was because it helped them train up their Kill Sight. An ability where they would be able to focus a little Qi into their eyes to find the weak points on an enemy.
It was a hard ability to rain, and so they would start with archery first learning as much as they could before they would be sent out to hunt game. Training it on the small animals that were around Lotus Pier that would be used for food for the Sect. It was a left over from when the Jiang’s were mainly hunters, rogue cultivators without a permanent home. Knowing how to kill and kill quickly and accurately was a skill that was needed to survive. So far, Jiang Fengmian hadn’t seen any of his senior disciples displaying such abilities. Senior disciples were trained by Madam Yu personally and should have been going through the last stages of using their Kill Sight on Night Hunt and training with the powered up wooden swords, that when they would strike a splash of colour would be left behind on their opponent. While the Juniors had all been turned over to their head disciple, Wei Ying.
Jiang Fengmian was pulled out of his thoughts as he heard a sharp sound from among the disciples. He rushed over, seeing that one of them had been injured from a sword that had flown from a sweaty hand,” Are you alright?” he asked, frowning as he realised that something was missing.
“Yes, Sect Leader,” he said, as he was helped to his feet.
“You two, go and help him to the infirmary, get him seen by the healer. You, hand me your bell for a second,” he ordered quickly. The two went to help their injured friend off the training field. Jiang Fengmian was handed the Jiang Clarity Bell and the frown on his face deepened. He couldn’t feel the thread of energy that should have been within it. He handed it back and went through a few more of them. Each one was the same, the thread that should be there wasn’t. The thread would connect all the Jiang Clarity Bells together was missing.
“Carry on,” he told them all, “I need to see to something,” he added as he headed for the pavilion where he knew that his wife was going to be spending the day. He saw her sitting there, “Madam Yu,” he called to her, trying to keep his voice level. He had been forced to remain in the Sect for longer than he wanted to, as he had wanted to leave in search of Wei Ying.
“What do you want?” she waved a hand, trying to dismiss him. She didn’t want to talk to the man at all.
“When I gave you permission to train the senior disciples, I asked that you link the bells together. Did I not?” he asked her, walking around her so he could look her in the eye as he waited for an answer.
“Yes, so what? It was a useless technique to use. A waste of time to even put it into play,” she huffed, sitting up properly to glare at him, definite and sure of what she had done, “Why would you want them all to link like that. It does nothing to help,” she shook her head at the waist.
“It…” he took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down at the blatant disrespect for the Jiang Sect’s techniques. He looked at her, “It does a lot, actually. It links all the disciples together. So that when we are working together I and they will know where they are. While I will know if any of them have been injured. At the moment I can only feel a few that are linked to my Bell. Not only that, but when one rings those in the vicinity all ring as well. Helping up to battle certain monsters that try to take over our minds,” he told her. Thought they were another few uses for the Bell, but those were the main ones.
“Useless,” she spat, turning away from him again and relaxing on the daybed that she had brought out for her to use.
“What else have I asked you to teach them all that you have failed to do so?” he demanded to know.
“Figure it out for yourself,” she sneered at him, laughing at the frustrated look on his face.
Jiang Fengmian turned and walked away from her. He spotted one of his disciples and told her to start telling everyone that he wanted all the disciples, of all ages, from the youngest to the oldest. Especially those that have been given the Bells to come. Which would be the entire Sect. Everyone was soon gathered, Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng had arrived as well. Looking at their father curiously.
“Father,” Jiang Cheng greeted him, a small smile on his face.
“A-Cheng,” he smiled, “I just need to check something with all the Clarity Bells,” he told him, making sure that his voice carried so the rest of the disciples would know. He went over and knelt checking it. He smiled in relief when he felt the thread within it. Though it wasn’t attached to his. He quickly did so, sighing as it flashed. He could now somewhat sense his son. He did the same with Jiang Yanli, finding that she too had the thread inside. One by one he went through each of the disciples, checking the bells and connecting them all up.
It was dinner time by the time he stood up straight, “Thank you all for coming, and for putting up with that. You may return to your dorms, there is no more training tonight,” he smiled, hearing a few happy cheers as they all walked away.
“What was that all about father?” Jiang Yanli asked him, though she had a pretty good guess.
“The Clarity Bells of our Sect have a few other functions to them than just keeping your mind clear,” he told her, explaining a few more things about what they did.
“A-Xian found all that out,” Jiang Yanli smiled.
“He thought that it would be a good idea to do it with all the ones that he was training. He wanted to make sure that he would be able to help them when they needed it,” Jiang Cheng told him, “So we did,” he smiled.
“But the seniors didn’t because they didn’t train with him at all, they don’t have the link,” Jiang Fengmian nodded as he realized that his children had been carrying on the traditions of the Sect, even if his wife didn’t. He smiled, “I’m proud of you all for doing so. The Clarity Bell is an integral part of who we are. That this Sect thrives because we work together. We are stronger together than we are apart,” he reminded them.
“We know,” they grinned at their father, “Only together can the impossible be achieved,” they finished for him.
While the world outside of the sect believed that the Sect motto was Attempt the Impossible. No one else knew that there was a little more to it. They attempt the impossible every day as they work together, to overcome their own weaknesses to become stronger. Each person had a weakness, and they used each day to fight against it. Jiang Fengmian had been told as a child that he would never be able to wield a sword because of an injury to his arm as a child. But he forced himself to learn a style of his own making and overcome his disability. Jiang Yanli had a weak core thanks to a childhood illness. But that didn’t stop her from working hard to be able to wield a sword and become very proficient at talismans when she fought during Night Hunts. Jiang Cheng had his own weakness in that he was a shy child. Scared to be around others. He didn’t want to lead at all, even when he knew he would be Sect Leader one day. But he was getting over that shyness, slowly. With the help of Wei Ying, Jaing Cheng was put in charge of helping train the baby disciples. Helping to build up the leadership skills that he needed and the confidence he needed to keep going.
“Good, you are learning well,” he smiled at the two of them as he pulled them into a hug, “For now, why don’t we go and you can tell me what else A-Ying was able to find out and teach you that your seniors don’t know,” he chuckled as the two of them nodded. They headed towards Jiang Fengmian’s office.
“So,” Jiang Cheng said as they settled in his father’s office with some tea and sweet pastries, even though dinner would be soon, “We learned about Kill Sight,” he told him.
“That’s really good,” he nodded, putting that on the list of things that he would have to teach the seniors.
“Yeah, it would be really good to use. Wuxian was really good with it, and he was teaching us how to do it as well,” Jiang Cheng told him, “I thought I had it, but then I lost my concentration.”
“He taught us how to use the Natural Qi to stop our prey from sensing us,” Jiang Yanli told her father. She had been hunting with everyone a couple of times. And had learned what Wei Ying had done to try and blend in with the scenery and to make sure that what he was hunting didn’t spot him at all.
“Ah, the cloak,” Jiang Fengmian nodded, all the skills that made a great hunter were the ones that seemed to be missing, “What about talismans, bringing them, to bring them down?” he asked, “Do you know how to do that?” he asked.
“Wuxian does. He was looking through some of the old books at the things that the Sect used to do a long time ago. he wanted to be able to change some of them so that they could be used again,” Jiang Cheng said, nodding as he thought of all that his brother had been researching over the last few months. Since the moment that Subian was put into his hands.
Jiang Fengmian listened as they went through everything that Wei Ying had been going over with them. His mind was torn as he listened to them. The things that they were learning from Wei Ying, were things that they should have been taught by the senior disciples. That Madam Yu should have taught them at first. What had driven the woman to betray the Sect Techniques that had been entrusted to her to teach. He decided that it might be a good idea to look at the books in the Sect Library. And to have a talk with some of the Senior Disciples to see how much of a mess Madam Yu had done to their training, to see what she had changed exactly. There was a chance that she was focusing on strength, which he had already found to be the case in some places. While speed and accuracy were what the Jiang Sect Style truly relied on, it was what their sword style used.
“Thank you,” he told his children, smiling at them all and hugging them, “Let’s go and have dinner and then you can both go and have some fun.”
They left the office to have dinner, his two children either side of him as they talked. Though all three of them felt the loss of Wei Ying at that moment. That the bright young teenager should be with them, talking and telling them all what he had been doing and learning, and even coming up with at times.
Jiang Fengmian made his way to the Sect Library after dinner, it had been a long time since he had been inside. And he realised he should have kept a better eye on things. He was quick to notice that some of the books had been taken from the shelves and not returned. He went over to the Leader that was sitting in the library and sat down before him, “Elder Jiang,” he greeted his great uncle. One of only two of that generation left.
“Ah, young Fengmian,” he smiled, “It has been a while since these old eyes saw you in this place,” he laughed lightly.
“It has been a while,” he agreed with a nod and a small smile, “And I fear that I made the wrong choice in taking so long to come here. May I ask where some of the books have gone?” he asked, almost dreading the answer.
“Ah, yes.” he nodded, “Madam Yu, she tried to take them all away. Saying that they were not suitable for the Sect disciples to learn from. She wanted to burn them. But myself and several other Elders were able to get them to safety. One of us too is always in the library from that day forward. That was several years ago. We even remain at night, to make sure she doesn’t try anything. Through Wei Wuxian, he is very much like his grandfather. Has a talent for arrays and talismans, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Wei Huizhong. Made something so she couldn’t take anything from here. Should have seen her face when she realised, she couldn’t take a book out of here. Couldn’t even rip it up in the Library, they are all protected, even from accidents now,” he smirked, “When she learned she even tried to set fire to the place, that just went out,” he laughed remembering the rage that was on her face when she had tried to do so several weeks ago.
“That is… good to know,” he said quietly. His heart hurt from what he had been learning since Wei Ying had been kicked out. He looked at the elder, “Thank you, for taking the time to speak with me. Please, put all the books back. I’ve found out that the Jiang Disciples are lacking in their training. She wasn’t training them at all in any of the Sect Techniques that she had been taught. Not one, no Kill Sight, the Jiang Bell hasn’t been linked to any of the Senior disciples or those that had gone to train under her. None of the stealth techniques have been passed on, nothing,” he told the Elder.
“Than she must never be allowed near them again,” he informed him seriously.
“She will not be. I’m training them at the moment, along with A-Li. But I need to leave soon to try and find Wei Ying. She threw him from the Sect, most of the disciples are too scared to speak in case she does the same to them,” he shook his head. He couldn’t believe what the woman had done to the Sect over the years. He wondered a little if this was her way of making it her Sect. He knew that she had always been jealous of her elder sister in getting the position of Sect Leader, while she had been married off to him.
“She did what!?” he yelled, causing those in the library to look over at them in shock at the sudden outburst. The Elder was now looking at Jiang Fengmian, fury in his eyes as he waited for what he had heard to be clarified for him.
“Yes, she did. At the moment, I’ve sent out a number of disciples out to search for some leads as to where he might have gone. But I don’t really hold out any hope of them finding anything. A-Ying is… smart, and knows how to survive better now. He won’t be easy to find, there is a part of me that fears we won’t find him until he wants us to. So, I’m going to be leaving to do so as soon as the Seniors, or at least a few of them, and A-Li are trained up. They can continue to teach and A-Li will be in charge of all Sect Business. A-Cheng wishes to come with me, and I think it would be good for him, I can also see about teaching him a few more things that are Clan Specific,” he added, taking Jiang Cheng with him had taken him a few days to decide on it, thinking that it would be nice to get to know him away from Lotus Pier and to teach him a few more things that might come in handy.
“We shall maintain that she will not have anything to do while here,” Elder Jiang promised him with a nod, “If we have to, we’ll use the confinement array and have her only able to access certain areas of the Sect.”
“Thank you Elder,” he smiled, “Give my thanks to the others that will help in that endeavour,” he added, getting up and bowing to the man.
“I always said that she wasn’t the right sort for the Jiang Sect at all, that idiot made the wrong move in that one,” Elder Jiang muttered, “The only good thing that came from her was A-Cheng and A-L, they are truly Jiang’s, through and through.”
Jiang Fengmian nodded and smiled, he left and walked with a heavy heart back to his office. He needed to come up with a training regime that will get the disciples to where they all should be. He knew that it was going to be brutal for some of them. He also needed to address the rest of the Elders and tell them all about what was going on. That Madam Yu was now an outcast within the Sect and not to be trusted with anything.
Jiang Fengmian put the finishing touches to the manual that he was leaving behind for Jiang Yanli to use. She would be in charge of Lotus Pier while he was gone. He knew that the seventeen-year-old would do well in the role. She was a strong young woman, no matter what her mother said about her. Her cultivation may be weaker than most, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there and it couldn’t be trained. He stood up from his desk, picking up the manual and tucking it away to go and find his daughter. She had taken over some of the training with the Senior Disciples. Madam Yu had tried to make her displeasure known about her doing so. But it didn’t work. No one had listened to her, they had even ignored her, which had caused her some anger. But with the disciples closing ranks around her, she was left out in the cold with only her two maids on her side.
Jiang Fengmian thought back to when he had first decided to go into his nephew’s room after he had been driven out of Lotus Pier. He had found the letters tucked away in the place where he knew that the bag of things had been kept. He had read the short note to himself and had hated himself afterwards. Wishing that he had stood up to Madam Yu sooner. He hadn’t realised how unwelcome that Wei Ying had been feeling at Lotus Pier because of it all. The letter Jiang Yanli had lit a fire within the young teenager. She was training more than ever before, ignoring every single thing that Madam Yu had tried to tell her. She was determined to be stronger, to be able to protect her brothers.
Jiang Cheng had changed the most since he had received and read his. He stood taller and started to take over the training of the junior disciples. Teaching them as Wei Ying had been teaching him. The bite of anger that had been dancing around his edges softening enough that he only really became angry when someone did something really stupid and got hurt. He was showing his emotions finally. Telling people what he thought instead of bottling it up until he yelled at someone. He was watching his son grow up before his eyes and he couldn’t help but be even more proud of him than he already was.
“A-Li,” he called out, as he watched his daughter finish moving through the sword forms that he had taught her when she was nothing but a small tiny little girl. The robes that she usually wore had been changed, they were now a lighter version of the disciple robes that everyone else wore. Instead of the flowing robes that most of the nobles’ ladies would wear. She reminded him of his mother, a gentle smile but a strong core, and he didn’t mean a golden core either.
“Father,” she smiled as she sheathed her sword and walked over to him, bowing, “Greetings,” she giggled a little. She looked flush, healthy even, instead of the usual pallor that dogged her steps for most of her life.
“I’ve taken the time to write down all that you’ll need to know while I’m gone. Two of the elders will deal with some of the things that will crop up. So don’t worry about everything. Here,” he said as he handed over the manual he had been writing over the last few days. “I’ve put everything in there that they all need to be trained in. What level they need to be at before they go to the next step. There are a few Jiang only techniques in there as well. Also, I’ve listed all disciples that go on night hunts. Their strengths, weaknesses and such, so you’ll be able to better decide who to send on those when they come in,” he told her, smiling as she took the book from him.
Jiang Yanli flipped through it, easily being able to read what was in there, “It should be fine. I’ll be able to teach them father and do the Sect proud,” she smiled, happy that she was actually doing something. She had been told so much by her mother that she was too weak to do anything, that she had even begun to believe the vile words spat at her. But the letter from Wei Ying had helped her see what her own mother was doing to her. Jiang Yanli was determined to become a proper Jiang Sect disciple. To become strong enough to be able to protect her loved ones.
“I know you will,” he smiled at her, placing his hands on her shoulders, “You’ve always made me so proud A-Li, every single day that I see you, you make me proud to be your father,” he told her gently.
She smiled up at him, “I’m glad, A-Cheng is with the younger disciples. He’s going through the training that Wei Ying started them all on. They are coming along really well, they could easily spar with some of the seniors,” she added a little quieter. She didn’t want to upset the seniors that she had been training with.
“I know, Wei Ying gave them a really good base to learn from,” he nodded, “I know that you will take care of that, and help the seniors get back up to speed as well,” he added, confident in his daughter.
“I’ve already sorted out the weights for them,” she grinned, knowing they were going to hate her after a while for them.
“It does help with speed,” he nodded, it was how he had trained from an early age. He didn’t know that it wasn’t being used anymore. Until Wei Ying found out about it two years ago and started with himself, Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli. It had helped when he had taken over as head disciples for the juniors that he had started to teach them in the same way that he had been learning. The juniors were all using weights when they trained. No matter what they were doing. Only when they were sparring against Jiang Cheng or Wei Ying would they come off. So, they could get used to the way they moved without them.
“It does,” she nodded, smiling up at him for a moment, “I’ll speak with you later. I want to go through some of the things in here so I can know what I’m talking about when telling them and instructing them,” she told him, tapping a finger on her book.
“Of course,” he said, pride shining in his eyes as he watched her walk away. He looked at the disciples she had been practising with. They were still going through the more advanced sword forms that he had been teaching them over the last couple of weeks since he had found out what Madam Yu had failed to teach them.
Jiang Fengmian began to walk towards the other training field. Knowing that Jiang Cheng would be there with some of the juniors. He took taking over from Wei Ying seriously. A little too seriously at times. But it was heartening to see him step up. That shyness was being forcefully pushed aside so he could make his brother proud of him. He came to the field and heard Jiang Cheng before he saw him. The young teenager was going through the forms. Calling out when mistakes were made, but unlike the biting tone of his mother, he was more gentle as he corrected them.
The Jiang Sect Leader stood there for a moment, just watching as his son moved around them, correcting them and joking. Much like Wei Ying would have done. “A-Cheng,” he called out when he stopped for a moment, getting the teenager’s attention.
“Keep going through them, when you make a mistake, you go back to the very start and start over,” he instructed them and then rushed towards his father. “Father,” he greeted bowing.
“A-Cheng, you’re doing wonderfully with them,” he praised. Looking at the disciples as they followed what Jiang Cheng had ordered, some starting again after a mistake.
“Wei Wuxian made sure that they would always listen to one of us if we were teaching. That we were doing it for their benefit to make sure that they would be strong enough to protect themselves and the others on a night hunt. That we’re stronger when we work together,” he said, a small smile on his face.
“Yes, that is true,” Jiang Fengmian smiled, “Walk with me a little,” he said as he began to walk away.
Jiang Cheng hesitated for a moment before jogging to catch up with him and asked, “What do you need?”
Jiang Fengmian laughed, “You sound so much like your uncle,” he said, shaking his head, “as you know, you’re going to be coming with me to search for A-Ying,” he reminded him.
Jiang Cheng nodded, “I know,” he smiled, though there was worry in his eyes.
Jiang Fengmian looked at him, “A-Li is going to be in charge. I am leaving two elders to help her. And she will have the Senior Head disciples help as well in training the others,” he told him, “She’ll be fine, I believe she will actually flourish,” he chuckled.
“Even with… mother… being here?” he asked, wondering why his father hadn’t sent her back to the Yu Sect.
“Yes, even with Madam Yu being here,” he answered him, “She has helped to dispel anything she might try and do.”
“Okay,” he nodded and then said, “Father, why is she still here? I thought you would have sent her back to Meishan by now?”
Jiang Fengmian sighed, “as you know, our marriage was arranged. But it wasn’t by my parents, but an elder of the Sect. They insisted that I marry Madam Yu. And the Sect Leader of Meishan Yu agreed to it. Without consulting anyone, they wrote a contract. Making sure that we wouldn’t just marry and then divorce as soon as was convenient to us. Or even able to break it. And Sect Leader Yu had added that the marriage would remain in place until the youngest child turned sixteen,” he murmured. He hated the fact that this had been done to him. He had been wishing to court a young Wen woman that he had met on a night hunt. Should Jiang Fengmian send Madam Yu back before Jiang Cheng turned sixteen, it would cost the Jiang Sect nearly everything. He was just glad that he hadn’t had to be with her again as soon as their son was born. Even though he would have loved to have a few more children. Madam Yu had been adamant that she would have no more now that he had his heir, Jiang Cheng.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” he murmured.
“While the arrangement was a normal thing. The contract wasn’t. Most are just verbal agreements between two families. But this one was written down, with a clause that if I am the one that should break it then the Jiang Sect’s treasures would go to Meishan Yu,” he told him. He hadn’t been happy when he had found that out after he had been forced to marry the woman. That he was now stuck until his youngest child with her would turn of age. He had hoped that he would have an heir straight away so he would be able to send her home faster.
“As long as she doesn’t cause trouble she’s fine here,” he said, “Yeah?”
“Yes,” Jiang Fengmian nodded, “At the moment I can have her confined to her rooms if she does certain things. If she crosses a line, she will have no choice but to listen to me and go into forced seclusion. At the moment, she still has her freedom to go around the sect and have people visit. I know that she wishes to see her friend at Koi Tower, and I have left a note that should she ask, she will be able to leave to do so. I’m hoping that she does. I would rather not have her be around A-Li too much while she is in charge of the Sect.”
“I know. She… she hovers around when I’m training. She hasn’t said anything to me yet, and I saw her fall a few days ago, when she was rushing towards me. I thought… I thought she was going to do something first. Then she just went to her knees,” he said, eyes wide as he remembered the incident from two days ago. He looked up at his father, “She… she looked like she was in pain. But… maybe I was just imagining it,” he shrugged, pulling a face.
“She might be trying to get you to feel sorry for her. You need to be careful around her son. She is a very manipulative person at times. She was able to take over all the training for the disciples not long after we were married. No matter what I said against it, she had been able to get some of the Elders onto her side as well. it won’t work now, since they know that she has caused us to fall behind in our Jiang Sect abilities and techniques. That she wasn’t teaching them as she said that she would,” he sighed, “Now, you need to go and get ready, we need to be leaving soon,” he told him.
“Okay father,” Jiang Cheng grinned as he rushed off towards his rooms.
Jiang Fengmian smiled as he watched him go. He then headed for his own room, to make sure to pack everything that he would need for an extended time away from the Sect. He knew it was going to be in safe hands for now, but he was still worried for A-Li. She was strong, he sighed and got ready. There was nothing for it, he would have to trust her.
An hour later Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian were saying their goodbyes to Jiang Yanli at the gates of Lotus Pier. They took to the sword and went in the direction that the scouts had suggested that Wei Ying had gone. Hoping that they would be able to catch up to him at some point. It had been just over two weeks since Wei Ying had left Lotus Pier.