Wow, we have reached chapter 14! Sometimes, it feels like a dream to me, that I have readers who enjoy my little fiction. And then I wake up, and it amazingly still exists.
I think the story will end at Chapter 16-18, it depends on how long the chapter gets. This is my maiden attempt at a full original fiction and I have learnt quite a bit through the process, I hope you will enjoy this final arc!
Also, many thanks and sweet hugs to sutekii who so kindly wrote a recommendation and review for Little Moon. *I'm so touched!*
Also, many thanks and sweet hugs to sutekii who so kindly wrote a recommendation and review for Little Moon. *I'm so touched!*
Chapter 14: A Difficult Choice
I felt like my brain was breaking into a thousand fragments, and yet it also felt like everything was finally falling into place.
Uncle patted my head, “Don’t worry, you will always be my niece, Yue. But you have a choice to make… a choice I wish you didn’t have to make. I was happy when you wanted to be a Moon Maiden, I thought this might be fate and this was your road to divinity. However, somehow your destiny got crossed with Hsiao’s again…”
“Yue, if you continue on your path to be a full-fledged Moon Maiden, you will accumulate divine essence and your heartstone will stabilize again. You will be immortal and slowly become a real goddess,” Uncle gave me a warm smile before continuing, “But, if you choose to go against this path, if you choose to be with Hsiao, it will be uncharted territory. You will be neither mortal nor immortal… you will likely suffer karmic retribution and vanish.”
Prince Sun/Xi Yang
To say I was disgruntled watching over Hsiao would be a modest underestimation. After teleporting Yue back to the Heavenly Realms to the Moon God, I rode Hsiao’s horse with Hsiao to the Capital. I had considered using a wandering cloud or teleporting straight to the Capital, but I was skeptical if Hsiao’s physical body could take such a disturbance.
Although it had taken some time to bring Hsiao back to the Royal Yan Palace, I wasn’t worried about Hsiao’s life. Hsiao’s pulse had largely stabilized with half of Yue’s heartstone. It took all my restraint not to want to tear it out of his chest. I scowled as I watch Hsiao sleep soundly in his bedchambers. When I had first arrived at the palace gates with Hsiao’s royal token, the soldiers had practically fallen to their feet in panic to see their long absent Second Prince return with a serious injury. After countless examinations by the Imperial Doctors, they pronounced that the Heavens had looked kindly upon their Second Prince and he would wake up soon. They had marveled at how the poison had miraculously resolved in Hsiao’s body even without an antidote.
I had refused to explain my identity to these silly mortals, and they had placed me in a neighboring royal pavilion as they waited for Hsiao to awake. Although uncertain of my origins, they did not dare to treat Hsiao’s saviour lightly.
“If you are a man, you should wake up now,” I scoffed and prodded Hsiao’s forehead as I sat on a stool next to his bed.
Since the first moment I met Hsiao, his body had emanated a golden divine glow. It was obvious that he was fated to be the Emperor, and was no ordinary mortal. I suppose my rival had to at least be of this standard. But, I did not intend on wasting any more time on him for I wanted to return to Heaven to check on Yue.
I heard a strangely authoritative voice ordering me to wake up through my ears. I scrunched my brows, who was that?
I opened my eyes and came face to face with quite possibly the most physically handsome man I had ever seen. Strong brows, an aristocratic nose, a charismatic mouth. His eyes flickered with a menacing light, and there was a light glow around him as if he was absorbing the essence of the environment into his skin.
“Finally,” he intoned with faint annoyance, “I have something to tell you before I leave.”
He scoffed at the confusion in my eyes, “Yes, I am your saviour. No, Yue is not here. She is in Heavens now.”
I felt a pang of terror flow through my veins and he quickly pressed a meridian point to immobilize me, “Don’t panic, you are going to slow down the healing process. Yue is not dead. Far from it, she has only returned to her rightful place in the Heavenly Realms.”
He paused, “I suppose I should start from the beginning.”
He stared at me, “If I tell you I am the Crown Prince of Heaven, Prince Sun, would you believe me?”
Prince Sun smiled, a faint devious smile like a knife, as he released my meridian point, “Come, follow me to the window. There are too many guards outside.”
I slowly rose up from the bed, and followed Prince Sun to the wooden carved windows at the side of my bedchambers. It was mid-day and the sun was blazing.
“I am the Crown Prince of Heaven and the sun is my symbol. Watch carefully, and do not mistake me for a low level demon or ghosts,” Prince Sun said as he waved his hand at the sun.
The world shut down. Everything was black all at once. Pitch black.
“What I take back, I return,” Prince Sun laughed and everything was bright again. The sun had returned.
He saw from my eyes that I understood and he looked back with some appreciation, “Good, you are a man that is not easily fazed.”
“Now, Yue, she’s the niece of the Moon God,” Prince Sun said with some softness in his eyes, “She had came down to earth to fix your fates with three women. Basically, she will suffer karmic retribution and vanish if you do not become the Yan Emperor and marry your three fated women.”
My heart froze, but I knew that this must be the truth. Our fates are tied together. Your success is my success, your failure is my failure.
Prince Sun turned his head, “It sounds like the guards are coming in to look for you. That is all I have to say. Follow your fate and don’t pull Yue down with you.”
With that, Prince Sun disappeared.
The Emperor, my father, had summoned me to the Royal Main Hall. When I arrived, I saw father on his throne, with mother at his right, both seated on top of the raised golden platform. My eyes immediately crossed path with Big Brother Qing who was standing in the middle of the hall in his royal armour. It had been five years since I had seen any of my kin and distance had not made the heart fonder.
I had asked to be sent away from the palace when I was young, for I had grown to despise the politics between my mother and my brother. Mother knowing my difficult temperament, had sent me to study martial arts from a pugilist who had long retired from the pugilistic world but had owe her a favor. It was much later that I realized that Shi Fu (师父 – teacher) had been the sworn brother of both mother and aunt. Many years ago, he was the most skilled pugilist in the jianghu (江湖 pugilist world), but even he could not prevent the future discord between the twin sisters. He had agreed to teach me his skills and the ways of the world for one promise – for mother not to kill Big Brother Qing. I still remembered Mother’s bitter laughter at that request.
In these five years, I knew Mother had fostered political support for me from the Premier and the senior royal officers, while Big Brother Qing had the backing of the army and the generals.
The Emperor smiled as I bowed down in greeting, “Father Emperor, humble greetings from your unfilial son.”
He lifted up his hand to indicate I could dispense with ceremony, “Have you enjoyed your freedom, Hsiao Er (儿 - affectionate greeting to son and children)?”
“Yes, though it had came with a painful price,” I said and touched the part of my chest where the blade had thrust.
The Emperor laughed, a deep throaty laugh, as he gave an intense look to Big Brother Qing and me, “My two sons, my only blood kin, my left and right hand. And yet, there is only one throne.”
“I know Hsiao has not turned twenty one, but destiny does not wait,” The Emperor said with a faraway look in the direction of the sky, “My father once told me that the greatest Emperor will be recognized on the day that the sun turns black. I never believed him… but did not the sun just turn black at mid-day?” He shook his head, “Destiny does not wait.”
The Emperor raised his right hand as if beckoning for something, and the Head Royal Eunuch Ji Fu (积福 – accumulate prosperity) arrived with a box made of pure gold, it had a dragon with five claws emblazoned on it.
“When both of you were sixteen, I gave both of you a choice – to stay in the palace or go out to see the world. I declared that when both of you turned twenty-one, I would ask both of you the same question, and the answer will determine who would inherit this throne,” The Emperor intoned seriously, “Qing Er decided to learn the ropes in the army and Hsiao Er decided to leave and roam the lands. At that time, I sealed my answer in this golden box.”
“Now, I shall ask both of you, what must an Emperor have to rule?” The Emperor announced his question like a royal decree that would forever burn down any possible bridge between Big Brother Qing and I.
Big Brother Qing stepped forward immediately, the sharp gaze in his eyes was a flash of blade as he answered victoriously, “力 (Strength). A strong kingdom needs a strong emperor, one with undoubted power, one whose words will embody might.”
With that, Big Brother Qing’s eyes turned to me, with a slight sneer, what will you answer? You, who had been running away since birth.
Ever since I entered the Royal Main Hall, my mother’s eyes never left me. For the first time, I returned her intense gaze. I saw worry, I saw hope, I saw anticipation. But most of all, I saw acceptance, I fought so long for you, my child, not for you necessarily to gain the throne, but for you to have it if you wanted it.
I turned to the Emperor. He had always been more an Emperor than a father. The weight of the throne bore him down more heavily than any blood bond between us.
“Today the world went momentarily dark when the sun turned black. However, I did not fear because I knew that the light did not only come from the sun. Because of the moon, I found my heart again. And, therefore, my answer is 心 (heart). Because a heart is not so easy to touch… you need real feelings to stir a heart. A kingdom is not just a kingdom, it is made up of countless men, women, children, people who have only one thing in common, which is a heart born on our Yan soil. The kingdom I want to rule is my people’s hearts,” I answered, more truthfully and more sincerely, that I ever had been in any of my conversations with the Emperor.
“You are too naïve,” Big Brother Qing laughed.
I turned to look at Big Brother Qing, “You can kill someone but not triumph over his heart.”
The gaze between the two of us smoldered until the Emperor gave a forceful pat on the armrest of his throne, “Open the golden box.”
Head Royal Eunuch Ji Fu opened the golden box, took out the golden silk scroll and unraveled it before our eyes.
There was only one word, large, bold and complete, “心”.
Big Brother Qing took a few steps back as if his knees could not bear the weight of his shock, “This is not true. This is a trick!”
The Emperor was stone-faced and calm, “Qing Er, I will pardon you because you must be shocked. But, this was no trick. I had written this myself when both of you were sixteen and personally sealed it. No one had seen this scroll since.”
“Qing Er, I do not disagree that an Emperor needs strength and power to rule, in fact I used to have the exact same mindset… but twenty years ago, when the Wu Kingdom’s mighty army was decimated at the Xue mountains by a small battalion of elite Xue soldiers… I knew then, that might cannot be the only answer,” The Emperor said in a calm, almost compassionate tone, as he waved Head Eunuch Ji Fu forward again.
Head Eunuch Ji Fu carried out another crystal box that glistened and seemed to be made wholly out of ice. I let out a surprise breath of air when I saw what laid in the crystal box – the golden Holy Xue ginseng.
“A few days ago, while Hsiao was still unconscious, we received a royal envoy from the royal family in the Xue mountain tribe. They had heard of Hsiao’s injury and sent this golden Holy Xue ginseng to him,” The Emperor said in a voice with a light trickling of awe, “They called him a close friend... if not for the Imperial Doctors pronouncing Hsiao out of danger, I would have fed Hsiao the golden Holy Xue ginseng.”
Before I left the Xue Mountain Tribe, I had disclosed to Princess Bai Ying my real identity… but even this was unexpected.
The Emperor looked at Big Brother Qing, “I would not say that this proves that Hsiao is right… but that was the way I had chosen five years ago, and that is the way I am interested to see where it leads for the Yan Kingdom. You are a great army commander, Qing Er, and I hope to see you assist Hsiao Er in bringing the Yan Kingdom to greater heights.”
“Henceforth, I hereby announce that Hsiao Er will be the Crown Prince of the Yan Kingdom…”
When father had made his announcement, the sun had really fallen and night had descended. I requested to return to my bedchambers to rest because of my injuries. In truth, everything was too overwhelming – the truth of Yue’s identity, the eclipse of the sun, my sudden crowning.
Just when I thought I would no longer be able to breathe, I saw that there was already someone outside the courtyard of my bedchambers. Only I could see her and the soldiers guarding my bedchambers appeared unaware of this beautiful figure in white robes.
As if she heard my footsteps, she turned to me and smiled, “Hsiao.”