“Father, do you know where Pi Yang is?” Pi Batian asked Pi Yan.
Pi Yan shook his head, his words seething with rage. “No. I beat him up severely, then exiled him from the Pi city. It’s possible that he’s already dead.”
“Why don’t we try to find him? After all, he’s still your son, and your blood flows through his veins,” Pi Batian probed.
“I don’t have a son like him,” Pi Yan emphasized, each word as hard as steel. I thought that it would be sufficient to let him live life doing whatever he wants. I’ve ignored a few incidents that he caused in the past, but now that he almost caused your death—no, I won’t allow such a traitor to remain in the Pi family!”
Pi Batian stopped talking, but the barest fraction of a smile touched his lips. Pi Yang and he were half-brothers. Pi Batian was born from Pi Yan’s wife, whereas Pi Yang was a child his father had conceived after a drunken dalliance with a servant girl. Although Pi Yan’s blood flowed through both of them, where one was his pride, the other was his shame.
To Pi Batian, the future head of the Pi household, he had always been strict and rigorous. On the other hand, he cared little for Pi Yang, and allowed him to do whatever he wanted. From an outsider’s perspective, however, it seemed as though he were pampering Pi Yang, and even Pi Yang himself thought that his father loved him more than Pi Batian.
Over the last two years, when Pi Yang’s cultivation showed signs of improvement, Pi Yan had played around with the idea of making him a trusted and loyal aide to Pi Batian—but given the events that had just taken place, his distaste toward his second son, which he had suppressed for all these years, finally overwhelmed his senses. He had beaten Pi Yang up with the intention of killing him, but he hadn’t expected that Pi Yang would stubbornly survive until he reached the Feng city, where he was rescued by Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan.
Although preparations for the spring festival were underway, Feng Bo was already getting ready for the battles that would quickly resume after the celebrations. After installing barriers around the towns surrounding the Feng city, he finally returned to the Feng city itself. As soon as Yun Ruoyan received news that Feng Bo had returned, she immediately headed to the city guards’ barracks to invite him to her manor to treat Pi Yang.
With Feng Bo’s help, Pi Yang finally, gradually recovered day by day. Although his physical health had greatly improved, his mind was mired in depression. The brash, arrogant youth of before had died with his father’s beating, died in his exile from the Pi city.
Yun Ruoyan was particularly sympathetic to what Pi Yang was going through. Though originally the young master of a hegemonic family of the Mingyuan continent, he was now a nobody. His own father had crippled and beaten him to the point of death.
As a result, when she was otherwise unoccupied, Yun Ruoyan would frequently talk with Pi Yang, trying to understand him better and explain how her own feelings toward her situation had changed. Her death had been a catalyst, one that stripped the rose-tinted lenses from her own eyes.
One day, Yun Ruoyan arrived while Feng Bo was treating Pi Yang.
“You’re recovering well,” Feng Bo commented. “In the future, there won’t be any need for further visits from me, Second Young Master.”
“Feng Bo, there’s no need to address me like that. Just call me Pi Yang.” Pi Yang chuckled bitterly. “I’m an exile from my family, and never again will I have anything to do with the Pi family.”
Feng Bo sighed, nodded, and turned to leave. Seeing the look on his face, Yun Ruoyan stepped toward Feng Bo and asked, “Feng Bo, is something the matter? Is it something to do with the Pi family?”
Feng Bo stopped short and turned back. “I just received news that the Pi family is hoping to form an alliance with the Lies by marriage. If the Pis succeed, the outlook for the Fengs will just get worse and wrose.”
“The Pis are proposing a marriage with the Lies?!” Pi Yang appeared very shocked. Yun Ruoyan thought back to what Lie Fenglan had told her back in the Lie manor: Lie Yun and Pi Yang had been engaged since childhood. Given his current condition, Pi Yang was certainly an ineligible groom, so what could the Pi family be planning? Unless…
“Feng Bo, who will the groom from the Pi family be?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“Who else? The revived Pi Batian, of course!”
As expected. Yun Ruoyan’s uneasy premonition had been right.
“The Pi family’s claiming that the second young master, Pi Yang, died after a severe illness. In order to honor the betrothal, the Pis will have Pi Batian take his brother’s place in marriage,” Feng Bo added.
“How have the Lies responded?”
They haven’t, not yet.”
“I don’t think Lie Yun will agree,” Pi Yang suddenly exclaimed. “Lie Yun’s never liked my brother, Pi Batian. She said that he’s too intelligent and too powerful, so much that it scares her.”
“Will her word matter?” Feng Bo continued to worry. After all, everyone present knew the likely outcome of an alliance between the Pis and the Lies. Although Lie Fenglan had promised not to help either the Pi or Feng families, if the Pis and Lies were to be joined by marriage, it was natural to help one’s extended family out.
“No, Lie Yun’s word will matter. Uncle Lie has always thought highly of her, and has been grooming her as his next successor,” Pi Yang said definitively. “That’s why Lie Yun’s so stubborn. If she’s unwilling to marry Pi Batian, no one would be able to force her to do so.”
Yun Ruoyan could understand Pi Yang’s sentiments. During the banquet organized by the Lie family, she and Li Mo could see how much emphasis Lie Fenglan placed on Lie Yun’s words. When Lie Yun proposed that the Lie family would help neither the Pis or the Fengs, Lie Fenglan had clearly hesitated—a sure sign that Lie Yun had come up with that idea without informing him.
The fact that Lie Fenglan was willing to let his daughter make such an important decision, one that would govern the fate of the Lie family, meant that he surely would respect Lie Yun’s decision with regards to marriage as well.
“I’ve heard a little of Miss Lie’s personality myself.” Feng Bo sat down and turned toward Pi Yang. “And also that she’s still interested in you, Young Master Pi. If you meet with Miss Lie yourself, you might be able to dissuade her from the marriage entirely.”
“Feng Bo, are you asking Pi Yang to persuade Lie Yun against the marriage?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“But, Pi Yang’s…” Yun Ruoyan looked at Pi Yang, who was lying in bed. Although his physical body had recovered, his mind and spirit—and more importantly, he was a cripple!
“I have a spiritual pill that will allow him to rapidly replenish his store of spiritual energy.” Feng Bo took out an ink-green bottle from his robes. “If the Pis and Lies end up forming an alliance, the Feng family will have no chance of victory. If the Fengs are exterminated, all our lives will become far more difficult.”
Silent, Yun Ruoyan turned toward Pi Yang.
“I’ll go,” Pi Yang finally murmured. “You’ve saved my life, so no matter what, I should do my best to help the Feng family out. However, given my current condition, I’m afraid Lie Yun will simply throw me out without wanting to speak to me.”
“That’s not necessarily the case,” Yun Ruoyan consoled Pi Yang, noting the defeat in his voice. “Miss Lie didn’t strike me as someone who would be so disdainful. I’ll go with you, and even if you fail, at least we tried.”
“Alright.” Pi Yang looked at Yun Ruoyan gratefully.
Within the Lie manor, Lie Fenglan and Lie Sen were both eagerly trying to persuade Lie Yun to agree to marriage with Pi Batian.
“Yun’er, won’t you listen to me just once?” Lie Fenglan pleaded. “Pi Batian’s a far better match than Pi Yang, and Pi Yang’s already dead! Isn’t it natural for his brother to take his place in marriage? Why are you still hesitating?”
Lie Yun sat on her futon, her face a stark white. News of Pi Yang’s death had been a great shock to her, one from which she had yet to recover. “Pi Yang’s Pi Yang, and Pi Batian’s Pi Batian. They’re two different people, so how can you compare them so easily?” Lie Yun replied in irritation. “To think I had been blaming Pi Yang for not visiting me when he too was stricken by illness! Why would the Pi family keep something so important from me? Why wouldn’t they let me see him before his death?!”
“The Pis aren’t to blame,” Lie Fenglan sighed. “I’ve been hiding the fact that you’ve recovered from the outside world, and I expect the Pi family has been hiding Pi Yang’s illness on account of your continued illness. But aren’t the Pis more honorable than we had imagined? Even after Pi Yang’s death, they’re still willing to honor the betrothal.”
“Isn’t that so, Sister? Pi Yang surely wouldn’t want to see you pining over him, either.” Lie Sen suddenly spoke up from the side, causing Lie Fenglan to turn and glare at him. “No one will think you a mute even if you don’t speak.”
Lie Sen frowned, but he kept his mouth shut.
“Father, both you and I know why the Pi family’s trying to proceed with the betrothal. I know how important this matter is to the Lie family, so I’ll surely think carefully about it. Please give me some time.”
Lie Fenglan sighed, then stood up. He stared at his darling daughter, unable to bear criticizing her or forcing her into marriage against her will. “In that case, I’ll give you some time to think. You know I’ll respect your decision, Yun’er.”
“Thank you, Father.” Lie Yun forced herself to smile.
Lie Fenglan patted her head, then eyed Lie Sen. Lie Sen shook, then hurriedly said, “Sister, rest well. I’ll be off now!”
Father and son left Lie Yun’s rooms together, leaving her alone, leaning against the futon, glancing at a plum blossom tree visible beyond the window. She had planted it together with Pi Yang on her tenth birthday. Every year afterwards, when Pi Yang came to visit the Lie family, he would always ask for her to brew him some plum blossom wine. The vat of wine from last year was still buried underneath the plum blossom tree, and this year’s plum blossoms were as beautiful as ever, but Pi Yang was already gone.Previous Chapter Next Chapter