Chapter 3: Escape
Sitting on the cold hard ground, Xu Min stared at his sister as she laid in his arms. He then hugged her with all his might, holding her close, not wishing to let her go.
His mind became a mess, since memories of their life together flooded in. He kept replaying the scene from this morning, when he saw his sister the last time, over and over again. A gaping wound appeared in his heart as though it had been ripped out from his body.
No matter how many times Xu Min called out for his sister, nothing happened. Her eyes did not miraculously open. She did not call his name back in response. Her entire body was limp in his arms, making him realize that she would never move again.
Her body had not caught on fire, but the smoke in the cabin made it impossible for her to breathe. In the end, she collapsed onto the ground and succumbed to the smoke which choked her.
Although Xu Min managed to drag her out just in time before the house burned down, he was not fast enough to prevent her death. Even though he applied every last bit of the limited amount of first aid that he knew, nothing changed. She wouldn’t wake up.
He realized that everything that he could have done to try to save his sister would be futile. His heart burned with the pain of this searing loss. The world, previously filled with colors and happiness, turned dark and bleak before his sight faded away. Xu Min closed his eyes as he yelled out in pain.
“Big sister,” Xu Min sobbed and gently laid her down. He looked around at all the adults who had arrived, cursing them under his breath for just standing there with dumb expressions on their faces and not assisting him earlier.
All of them had long since given up trying to save the small shack from the raging fire. Instead, they all gathered around Xu Min and Xu Wu. A mix of sadness and compassion could be seen in their eyes as they shook their heads in regret.
While he looked at everyone just standing there, anger sprouted in Xu Min’s heart, because he simply wished to be left alone with his sister. Why did the fire have to happen to them? He cursed before a sudden thought entered his mind, making him clutch Xu Wu even more tightly than he had before.
“Let her go.” A familiar voice sounded from behind him,interrupting Xu Min’s thoughts, making him turn around. Hope sprang to life as he saw Overseer Tian striding towards him. Perhaps he knew some sort of martial arts which could bring a dead person to life once more. She had, after all, not been dead for long. A slight smile appeared on Xu Min’s tearstained face, but it was a smile of madness.
“It’ll be okay sis!” Xu Min said to the lifeless body in his arms. “Overseer Tian can help you.” The words of Xu Min were like bolts of lightning to everyone who stood around him, and looks of pity were directed at the poor boy who was still in denial.
Upon hearing the words spoken by Xu Min, a tremor ran through the body of Overseer Tian and a sad expression became visible in his eyes. The older man kneeled down next to Xu Min and his large arms gently held the smaller boy by the shoulders, shaking him lightly.
“Pull yourself together, Xu Min!” he said with a harsh voice, “Tell us what happened here!”
Overseer Tian had known Xu Min for years and he obviously knew Xu Wu. Xu Wu was smart, and although she had never cultivated, she was still considered fairly strong. For her to be unable to leave a burning shack, something definitely had to be out of the ordinary.
“The door was blocked!” Xu Min suddenly said, his voice filled with certainty. How could he have not realised it before? Someone blocked the door before the fire started. It had to be, how else could a conscious Xu Wu succumb to the fire?
Thinking things through, an anger unlike anything he had ever felt before suddenly burned within Xu Min’s gut as his eyes landed upon the frightened young master and his entourage, who were standing on the side of the crowd.
At first, he wondered why they were here. Had they seen the fire and rushed over to help? No way! The young master would never be found in these poor areas of the family compound occupied by the servants, unless he was planning something.
As if the young master knew that Xu Min was looking at him, their eyes locked and a horrified expression started to spread on the young master’s face. He slowly tried to back away, only to find himself sliding to the ground. Boundless anger rose up within Xu Min. Anger, hate, and murderous intent.
“They did it!” Xu Min yelled while pointing at the young master. Everyone in the crowd turned their eyes in the direction of the pointing finger. An unexpected sight unfolded before them – the young master’s face was completely pale as he actually quickly fell to the ground kowtowing in front of the furious Xu Min.
“It was a mistake!” He said with a frantic voice, desperation clear from every move he made. “It should have been you! You should have died, not your sister!”
Hearing that, Xu Min tilted his head slightly and looked down at the unmoving woman in his arms again. Tears welled up in his eyes as he gently touched her skin, that was still warm, but no pulse could be felt. His dear sister, his only family, had left him for good.
And it was all his fault. Xu Min’s eyes became red as he wished that he had been the one laying there; he wished that he could trade his life for his sister’s, yet no matter how much he wished for it or how much he begged, he knew it was impossible. The only thing that was still possible was to get revenge for Xu Wu’s death.
Xu Min gently laid Xu Wu down on the ground and placed her arms over her chest, before he plucked a flower and placed it in her hair, after which he turned away. The anger in his eyes shone brightly into the dark night. The fire that was burning behind him made it seem as if he were a demon beast, ready to slaughter anything in its path.
“That’s enough!” Overseer Tian said, as he sensed how Xu Min was about to jump onto the young master, to kill the person who caused Xu Wu’s death. Before Xu Min even had the chance to move, Overseer Tian had already placed his arms around the boy, locking him in a tight embrace.
Xu Min’s entire body was filled with pure hate. The only reason why he could still stand on his own two feet was due to this hate and the need for revenge. It felt as though Xu Min had turned into an avenger. He had no other purpose in life than to ensure that Xu Wu’s death was paid for in blood.
Xu Min was trying his very best to escape from the tight embrace in which he was locked, however, he was still only a Student Warrior and nowhere near strong enough to pull away from Overseer Tian. He was filled with unreasonable hate towards the Overseer who had acted like his parent in the past years.
From far away, bustling sounds could be heard as more people approached. Xu Min narrowed his eyes as he saw that the Zhong family leader was amongst those people. He knew that his chances of realising his revenge had now just plummeted to the ground.
This young master was the only son of Master Zhong and he spoiled him rotten, handing him all the cultivation resources he could have possibly wished for.
Xu Min was not the only one who saw Master Zhong appear. Overseer Tian also noticed the arrival of his master. Upon seeing him, he let go of Xu Min to greet Master Zhong and rushed to the Master’s side to explain what had happened.
As soon as Overseer Tian let go of Xu Min, the anger within the young boy exploded, causing him to instantly rush towards the young master. He smashed a clenched fist into the young master’s face at full force, causing the spoiled brat to scream out in pain and stumble backwards, blood streaming from a broken nose.
One of the guards immediately rushed to the young master’s side, caught Xu Min’s shoulder and tore him away from his liege. Xu Min was thrown several meters away, where he got up, only to see the young master hiding behind the guard, which made him grind his teeth in anger.
Master Zhong looked at his son with displeasure as he saw his reaction to the pain. However, as soon as Overseer Tian explained what exactly happened, his face instantly turned brighter and a smile appeared on his face.
“Little Ji, I never thought you had it in you!” He said in a praising voice, causing the young master to be stunned for a moment, shocked to see that he was not being scolded. “To think you actually had it in you to kill someone, father is proud of you!” He continued, his eyes lighting up with surprise and his words causing Xu Min’s head to go blank..
To kill an innocent woman who had never cultivated was considered something to be commended for? Hate seeped out of his eyes and Xu Min felt as though he would jump right at Master Zhong, attacking him with his fiercest attack.
Fortunately, Xu Min was aware that he was nowhere near as strong as Master Zhong and his burning desire for revenge told him that he had to endure for now, or else he would fail for sure. Endure! He bore his fingernails into his palms, allowing the pain to flood in, in an attempt to fill the void that appeared in him.
What Xu Min did not expect was that right at this moment, while Xu Min was staring at Master Zhong, the family leader looked at him and a cold flash appeared in his eyes.
“Kill the brother!” He said with a casual voice. The order caused enormous shock amongst many of the people present. Xu Min used that moment of surprise to turn on his heels and run. With a final look at his beloved sister, Xu Min rushed into the thick forest, running through the familiar paths with sure steps.
Xu Min had lived in that shack his entire life, and his mornings were always spent either bathing in the nearby stream, or playing in the forest behind the city. Xu Min could move through these paths with sure steps even in the dead of night, giving him a head start on the many soldiers who were trying to catch up with him.
Back at the still burning cabin, a frown was apparent on the face of Master Zhong. However, it quickly smoothed over as he looked at his son who was still crying from the broken nose.
“Stop being such a wuss!” He scolded his son, with a resigned voice, almost as though he was giving up on him, “Go to the healers and have them patch you up. Everyone prepare a feast! My son has finally become a man! This is a great time to celebrate for anyone who cultivates martial arts!”
“But milord,” One of the guards behind him asked in a trembling voice, “The person who died was a personal maid of the third wife. A maid who never cultivated….” Before the man managed to continue, a hand smacked his head with such force that the guard fell to the floor, blood running from all the openings in his face.
Master Zhong looked around at the people present and his eyes promised more pain for those who dared to say anything against him. “No one cares about a mere maid. She died for the sake of teaching my son how to kill, and that is already a noble cause to die for. If anyone ever brings this up again, I will see to it that they are the next person my son trains on.”
His voice was ice-cold and seemingly devoid of all feelings. Seeing that no one dared to look at him, Master Zhong snorted contemptuously as he started moving away. “Make sure to prepare a great feast. I will give one gold coin to anyone who can get me the head of that boy.”
After saying that, Master Zhong turned around, not even looking at the forest once more, and hummed quietly as he made his way back to the main hall of the Zhong Family Mansion.