The Play Begins

 Huang Howan remembers her mother’s words and decides to leave before this man sees her lurking by the doorway. He might be a shadow guard, she can’t take the chance of being discovered, she will need to make a plan and not do anything in haste. Her eyes dart back and forth to make sure no one is in the hallway then quickly leaves.

     The Astral Void Beast transforms from the handsome man who was standing at the side of XiXi’s bed back to the repugnant looking beast and lays at the bottom of her bed. His guilt overwhelming him momentarily, if I hadn’t been tempted by Wang Chao Han’s Sorcerer I would have been at her side when catastrophe struck. He would see it countless times in his dreams him returning as she is wrapped in chains and engulfed in red and blue flames.

     Only Wang Chao Han and Xiaolian know his true identity, the once proud General Jiang Bai. She had been working so hard to find a solution to returning him to his former self, yet he had abandoned her that day when Wang Chao Han summoned him.

     He lured him away saying he had relented, he would accept the priceless Elixir of the Immortals Jiang Bai had obtained, in exchange he would have his Sorcerer Lee Yoo break the spell.

     When Jiang Bai realized it was a trap and Xiaolian was in danger it was already too late. Jiang Bai snatched the porcelain bottle in his talons avoiding the needles Wang Chao Han was shooting from beneath his sleeves and flew to where she was but it was too late. The most he could do was prevent her soul from being shattered.

     He smashed the porcelain bottle of Elixir of the Immortals and it vanished up into the air. covering her limp body as her life force was extinguished. The elixir prevented her from disintegrating into ash leaving her body unscathed from the demonic flames but he was not in time to save her essence.

     He will never forget the sight of her pale face as she used her last breath to look at him and say, “You’ve come back.”  She gave him a faint smile and whispered, “Please save Yun Tai.”

     The most he could do for Xiaolian was save Yun Tai who was fighting the Seventh Demon King. The Seventh Demon King was playing with Yun Tai, laughing, his face sneering at the young boy in front of him who was crying from anger and heartbreak. Yun Tai was slashing at him with unrestrained anger but was no match. His strength could be compared to that of an ant attempting to bring down a lion, but he kept flying towards the Demon King.

     Jiang Bai distracted the Seventh Demon King and knocked Yun Tai to the ground unconscious. He swooped down from above using his sharp black talons to strike at the Demon King. He responded by sending a demonic wave from his palm sending the Astral Void Beast back almost into the woods.

     He began to taunt Jiang Bai thinking this is getting to be fun..”Beast look at your mistress on the ground, where were you?”

     Jiang Bai raised his monstrous body and his eyes shot flames of red towards Zhu Diyu,  “YOU BASTARD!

     Why did you destroy Xiaolian?”

     He agilely sidesteps the flames his darkly handsome face mocking Jiang Bai.

     Zhu Diyu “She resisted me, no woman has the right to say no to me, I am the most desirable Demon King!

     I spent more effort trying to get her into my bed than with any other woman, yet my politeness went unnoticed by the little slut! I have seduced women from all of the Seven Kingdoms with ease but she resisted my charms. I even resorted to attempting to invade her mind so she would notice me.”

     He points a slender finger “The little bitch only had eyes for that lowly weak boy on the ground over there”, he snickers. “I was going to have him join her in death but decided to let him live to seek revenge he will never get, longing for a woman who is no more.” He leans his head back laughing.

     “As for you Beast, you can live a thousand more years knowing your selfishness helped me kill your Mistress! Haha..Haha..”

     Immediately after he uttered those last words he vanished into the air leaving only demonic smoke wafting behind and the sound of sinister laughter.

     Sitting on the floor recalling those memories is too much for Jiang Bai, he looks at XiXi peacefully sleeping, “If you truly are Xiaolian I will make it all up to you.”

     He decides he needs some fresh air, he transforms into a man then  flies out the window. Once he is past the outer courtyard he once again becomes the Astral Void Beast spreads his thick black wings soars into the sky above the mountain.

     Wang Li Jie is presently in the palace kitchen having the chef and his assistants prepare Xiaolian’s favorite dishes, she should be waking soon. He carefully tells them what to make, remembering she likes spicy dishes he instructs them to make some dumplings using braised pork and firepods.

     The kitchen servants are nervous, sweat is pouring down their foreheads. What is His Highness doing in the kitchen, he hasn’t eaten a meal in a five hundred years..Does he have a special guest, no one is ever invited here.

     They look at each other in disbelief is he smiling?

     Wang Li Jie pulls up a stool and watches their every move causing their hands to shake as they prepare delicacies from The Mystical Lotus Kingdom. One assistant fainted and had to be carried away from the pressure. Finally the dishes are prepared, he instructs them to bring them to the Starfire Room. He happily turns and looks at the dishes, nodding his head in appreciation to their hard work and leaves.

     “Isn’t that in the wing that has been closed off for five hundred years?. One brave servant girl asks the chef, Yang Chang.

     He shakes his head at the girl looking at him with fear covering her face, “Just make sure you do a good job serving!” He also wonders who is in that room but knows better than to even spend a moment’s thought on the matter. His Highness has no patience for anyone who oversteps his boundaries.

     “Just make sure you bow deeply, then serve the food carefully. When you are finished back out the room with your eyes lowered! Don’t cause any problems for yourself or me!” I am an elderly man with high blood pressure! Why out of the blue does His Highness visit the kitchen supervising a meal!

     Wang Li Jie enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed, he notices the red lotus bracelet is dim without the light from the beast’s red eyes shining through. Where did that insolent beast go? Well good I don’t need him commenting on Xiaolian and my reunion.

     He holds her delicate soft hand in his palm then  gently squeezes it to awaken her with his internal energy, at the same time implanting memories they shared that he recovered from the Mystical Ice Mirror earlier.

     Her thick black eyelashes flutter and open revealing a pair of deep blue eyes that are still clouded from her deep sleep. She languidly stretches her arms and her white sleeves fall back revealing her tender arms,

     “Wang Li Jie!” She affectionately reaches up gently putting her jade like arms around his neck. “I feel like I slept an eternity! How long have I been sleeping?”

     His heart is about to burst with this sudden display of emotion from Xiaolian. He has waited so long for her to return to him. But, he must stay calm he knows this is an illusion he has created to help her be comfortable and cultivate. She will need to return to being that girl XiXi if he is going to thwart his brother. He settles himself down in order to continue the play. His handsome features show a calmness that hides his inner excitement.

     “Too long! I have had the kitchen prepare your favorite dishes, afterwards we can walk in the Ice Flower Garden and you can cultivate”, He says in a pampering tone.

     “Your Highness you spoil me, haha.. I don’t know how I will ever repay your kindness to me..”She looks at him with a loving gaze. When my parents died that year if you hadn’t helped me maintain our family’s lands stopping the vultures who coveted our wealth, I would have been left destitute and alone. Helping me with my cultivation and guiding me..”She hugs him close to her body.

     “You are my greatest benefactor and dearest friend.” She stares into his purple eyes that have become hazed over looking at her. He feels as if his heart is about to explode and his face lights upwith her warm  breath brushing his cheek as she speaks so closely to him. She takes her fingers and lightly puts some of his black and silver hair behind his ear.

     “Let me fix your hair for you, were you rushing around earlier, it is unusual to see your hair not carefully tied up.” Her melodious laugh as she says it is almost too much for him . He wants to grab her hands and pin her down underneath him. 

   He lets her comb his hair and she skillfully puts it up replacing the golden crown that she had removed.

   “There, so handsome now my King!”, she giggles and rests her head on his chest as though it was the most natural gesture in the world.

  “I’ve missed you so much…” He whispers under his breath as she curls up into his broad chest.

   “What?”

  “Nothing, it’s been awhile since you visited here at Mystical Cloud Mountain.”

     The servant girl is walking down the hallway toward the Starfire Room her knees shaking at the thought of serving His Highness and his special guest. The dishes are clattering on the tray and the Bird Nest Soup is starting to spill, Why me she is thinking..why me?

     Huang Howan come up beside her and says, “You are Lan An aren’t you?” The girl is startled and almost drops the tray, isn’t that the old nanny’s spoiled daughter?

     “Yes, Huang Howan what can I do for you I need to hurry and serve His Highness.”

     Huang Howan says, “My mother asked me to serve them but when I got to the kitchen you had left, Here let me take that from you”, she deftly takes the tray from the girl.

     The young servant girl is relieved but unsure if that old kitchen manager will get mad at her, “I was instructed to take it so please hand it back to me.”

     “No need” Huang Howan smiles and walks away leaving Lan An with her mouth hanging open

   “Pfft”

     Wang Li Jie helps XiXi out of bed and leads her to a table in the outer room situated by the balcony. He is pulling out her chair for her when Huang Howan knocks.

     “Come in, set it down and leave” he doesn’t even take his eyes off XiXi for a moment and waves his hand, never turning around.

     Huang Howan grits her teeth seeing XiXi sitting at the table across from him. This girl is as beautiful as a goddess now that she can see her face clearly. No matter! I am beautiful and talented, I know Wang Li Jie’s likes and dislikes he is very fussy, she mentally compares herself to XiXi.

     “Your Highness, it’s me Huang Howan may I serve you and your guest?” she says in her sweetest voice.

     “No, set it down I will serve the food, go”

     “But Your Highness.. you..”

     “GO!”

     XiXi is facing the direction of Huang Howan and sees the disappointment on her face. She looks at the girl shuffling quickly out the door with red cheeks, “Your Highness, I think she was upset, that was a harsh tone you used.”

     Only Xiaolian could reprimand Wang Li Jie without dying on the spot. He tenderly looks at her and says, “ I will have the kitchen manager compensate her some silver taels.Damn you Huang Howan making me look bad in front of Xiaolian!

     He serves the dishes to the table and hands XiXi some silver chopsticks. “I asked them to prepare some spicy dishes you like and some blood nourishing Bird Nest Soup. The dishes are infused with spirit energy to help you with your cultivation also.”

     She picks up a piece of wild boar meat and places it in her mouth savoring the spicy glaze, “Oh Wang Li Jie, this is very tender and delicious.” He places more on her plate, he loves watching her eat, she enjoys every bite. The way she sighs when it is delectable makes his purple eyes sparkle in delight.He has missed her beyond measure.

     Although she knows he doesn’t need to eat she wants to share the flavor with him and puts a piece to his lips, “You need to taste the flavor, your chef is amazing!”{If he could hear her praise him he would stop wringing his hands in the kitchen}

     He touches her hand that is so close to his lips, “Thank you for reminding me of the pleasures of a good meal, and opens his mouth.I will reward that old man 1000 gold ingots!

     Huang Howan is leaning up against the wall down the hallway, she didn’t dare spy on them after being scolded. Hmmph! I will kill that slut!

     Lan An had waited outside to make sure the food was delivered properly and saw Huang Howan leaning against the wall muttering to herself. Her face was contorted, she looked very angry.

     Should she ask how it went? She sees Huang Howan notice her, she walks over calmly asks“Should I wait to remove the dishes when His Highness finishes?”

     Huang Howan composes herself, no need to let this little wench see her angry. “Yes, I need to go pick some Ice Flowers” she turns and walks away.  Let him snap at this wench when she disturbs him and the slut!

     Lan An doesn’t want to know what that was about as long as the food was served properly.

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