The thoughts in Qin Yining’s mind twisted and turned, connecting all the dots that she’d gleaned about Lotus. The answer was on the tip of her tongue!
She put the jade seal back into the wooden box and opened the letter addressed to Jinxuan. The contents were brief, but very shocking.
The gist was: Pang Zhixi’s men are at the city walls, We likely don’t have much time left. We have committed innumerable evils in this life, Our death is not to be mourned. Our only regret is beloved Yongfu. The princess is young and truly innocent. Brother Liu, We implore you to come. If you render aid, We would be most grateful and repay your righteousness in Our next life.
‘Zhou Weixian’ was the signature, and a personal seal stamped next to the name.
What else would Qin Yining not understand after seeing the name?
The surname of Northern Ji’s ruling clan had been Zhou. The tyrant’s secondary name had been Weixian, a name that had drawn the ridicule of the people. The ‘wei’ in his name stood for able and virtue, but its bearer was anything but competent or virtuous.
From this, she could concluded that Lotus should be Princess Yongfu, her surname Zhou and her secondary name Xiaolian, the characters for Lotus.
The one who’d died to protect Zhou Xiaolian must be General Liu Jinxuan.
Her expression grave, Qin Yining placed the letter and seal back into their original positions. She’d thought that Lotus' background wouldn’t be simple, but she’d never imagined that the child would be the princess of the previous dynasty!
Them meeting in the mountains was an indicator of their shared destiny; Qin Yining could never abandon this adorable girl to perish in the woods. Danger and wild animals lurked around every bush. She herself had once lived in the mountains and knew full well how difficult this kind of life was.
This child had fended for herself in the mountains since the age of six and somehow made it to nine years old. She subsided on half-raw food and likely often went hungry. She looked like a little savage, but hadn’t been eaten by wild animals or died of illness. This was already a miracle in and of itself!
Qin Yining couldn’t promise Zhou Xiaolian’s string of luck would continue if she remained on the mountain. I’m taking her with me!
But the most difficult part of this all was the child’s identity. Her father was the tyrant that had doomed Pang Xiao’s father.
Pang Xiao had overthrown the tyrant and ended the ludicrous reign of Northern Ji in the name of revenge for his father. He was a hero in the people’s eyes, but an enemy in Zhou Xiaolian’s.
And in his, Zhou Xiaolian was the daughter of his enemy. Not to mention she possessed the imperial seal of Northern Ji.
Great Zhou had surely hunted for this seal since the founding of the nation.
Qin Yining really couldn’t say with surety that Pang Xiao would let Zhou Xiaolian live after he learned of her identity. And even if he did, would the Zhou emperor show mercy? The others?
Such a young child shouldn’t bear the sins of her father! Since Qin Yining had met the girl, she wouldn’t stand by idly. She would take Zhou Xiaolian with her and protect her. No one would find out about the child’s identity, even Pang Xiao.
Just as thoughts ran rampant in Qin Yining’s mind, rustling in the woods sounded outside the cabin.
The door was pushed open to admit Zhou Xiaolian carrying a bloody wild hare and a net full of small sparrows still frantically trying to flap to safety. Dirt and grime covered her all over as she called out happily, “Big sister, eat!”
The cleanliness of the cabin seem to strike her in the next second. The floors were the cleanest they’d ever been. The child hastily backed up, threw out the bleeding prey, and scuffed at the bloody marks on the floor with her animal pelt boots. She smiled bashfully at Qin Yining.
Her uncle had taught her before that dirty things shouldn’t enter the house, that their quarters should be kept clean. Even though she’d been very young then, and even though she hadn’t been able to follow the rules once she started living by herself, the sight of the tidied up floors reminded her of what her uncle had once said.
Qin Yining walked over with a smile and pulled Zhou Xiaolian next to the fire. Patting the matted hair—I wonder how long it’s been since she’s washed her hair—the Qin fourth miss smiled gently. “You went hunting, Lotus ? You’re so amazing!”
The child grinned with happiness from the compliment. “Big sister, hungry. Eat little birds.”
“Alright, stay here and warm up. I’ll clean them up.” Qin Yining rose to handle the prey.
Zhou Xiaolian couldn’t sit still and followed the older girl out. The two walked further away and dug a hole in the snow first before gutting the wild hare and sparrows. They washed everything with snowmelt and buried everything in the snow before returning to the cabin.
Qin Yining discovered a moderately sized iron pot in the cabin, as well as a small bag of coarse salt. She washed the pot clean, set it up over the fire, and filled it with snow to brew a pot of rabbit stew. The sparrows were strung up to be roasted.
Zhou Xiaolian remained crouched by her side all this time, staring at the food with sparkling eyes.
“Lotus, do you remember what your home was like?”
The child started and narrowed her eyes in thought. She responded slowly, “Many people, at home. Live big house. Little brothers. Little sisters. Play with me. Have candy, lotus congee, big yard. Lotus flower in vat. Many vats in yard. All with lotus.”
Qin Yining smiled. “Do you remember your daddy?”
Zhou Xiaolian nodded. “Daddy, tall. Have beard. Beard pokes me. Lets me pull.”
A mix of emotions roiled in Qin Yining’s heart. People all said that the tyrant of Northern Ji was violent and merciless. Who would’ve thought such a heartless, evil tyrant would let his daughter climb all over him and pull his beard?
“Lotus, big sister’s going to go home after a few days. I’d like to take you with me. You’ll be with me from now on, alright?”
Lotus froze at the words and fat droplets surged out of her eyes, streaking two trails down her dirty cheeks. “Big sister don’t go. Sister, don’t go.”
Qin Yining quickly pulled the child over when she started crying and wiped her tears away.
“Don’t cry, I’m not leaving you behind. It’s just that I have a family too. I have my daddy, my mommy, and they’ll be sad if I disappear. Come home with me. You can be my little sister in the future and I’ll take care of you, alright?”
Zhou Xiaolian choked out, “Uncle, say, no go out. Bad people outside.”
The Qin fourth miss hugged the sobbing child. “Don’t be scared. You’ll be with me in the future, and I’ll protect you! My daddy is very strong too, he’ll protect you. Come with me, change your name, don’t tell anyone about your daddy or home, and definitely not your uncle. No bad people will come find you then.”
“Really?” Zhou Xiaolian wiped her face with her sleeves, smearing a mess of tears and snot and dirt around, but making her eyes seem brighter in the process.
“Of course, I wouldn’t lie to you.” Qin Yining looked at her seriously.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Here is the full chapter, and oh HURK. I'm so sorry guys, I made a mistake with the name Lily. It's actually Lotus! Fail me. Mucho apologies. I got to the lotus soup part and was like O_o It's the same characters for the child... WTF did I say Lily for? I'm sorry, mega sorry! ...the name's not gonna be around much longer..
Corrected in this chapter, will correct the rest when I get home from Avengers!
I spent a good part of the day yesterday reading 100 pages of Deathblade's original xianxia, now out on Amazon! Check out my thoughts here and be just as distracted as me. XD