Oh my goodness, it has been THREE years since I last updated this!
I played the game again but I did every little bit so I feel more comfortable writing it again.
This chapter might be a little bit boring but I need this over and done with so I can move onto the next few chapters!
Chapter Three: Tiger Lifts the Mountain
"About... about me? But... why? I mean, if you were a man, I could understand how there might be some interest but... never mind. Is this about the mission?"
Wu chuckled. It was a usual respond from a princess or even a lady of a high standing. She was most possibly taught this way. "Are men the only one with interest? Go on, I want you to tell me all about yourself!"
Lian blushed slightly, realising she made a small fool of herself. She is a friend, after all, Lian reasoned. She got coy in her statue, "Oh... well. I suppose I could answer a few questions..." Then suddenly she stiffened up, "I'm sure more than enough have been said about me by the peasant or others. I am used to defending myself from all quarters."
Wu raised an eyebrow. That was true, but she wasn't about to say that. Dawn Star thought the princess was selfish, Wild Flower thought that the Princess was awesome, Sky said that she didn't have a bad heart but she needed to do more for the Empire. The peasant did not like her, nor disliked her. She appeared to have done more than her father these days.
Wu didn't know how to respond but she gave it a try, "I'd wager that they say she has an iron will." Which was partly true, but Wu felt that it was only skin deep. She also said that because she wanted to see her reaction to criticism.
Lian got defensive. "Harsh time demands harsh actions! This is a time of trial for my family and the Empire. One I shall not fail! I hope they also speak of good things about me." Wu smirked at her reaction.
"I'm sure they cannot stop talking about the beauty of this certain princess." Wu even gave a cheeky wink.
Lian was taken aback. She didn't expect it, not after what Wu had just said.
Lian was walking Wild Flower back to the camp, after taking her around Scholar's Garden and teaching the curious young girl on the history of Jade Empire, especially on about Seng Si the Broken Bough, the first openly female commander. Lian loved how Wild Flower was deeply fascinated by Seng Si and wanted to know more about her. Lian was wondering if she can order one of her servants to make another manuscript just for Wild Flower. It may have to wait until after she confronted her father.
Wild Flower reminded the veiled princess so strongly of her younger self. The young girl had such yearning for knowledge and wanted to know about as many different topics and not hear about the same thing over and over again. Not like her old tutor, who only ever spoke about the siege of the Horselords, or of Khor Miah, or Seng Si, or of that daft Empress Sun who went off her bats. It was rather tiresome.
Lian decided she wanted to take a walk around after leaving Wild Flower with her amusing companions. She heard talks of Tiger Lifts the Mountain while taking a walk around the streets. One courtesan gossiped loudly that it was about time a woman rose ranks rapidly in the Imperial Area. That intrigued the princess; she actually wanted to see how Wu fared in the Arena. She liked the stage name that Wu chosen. It was almost lyrical.
She entered the Arena; it has been a while since Lian last set her foot in the filthy Arena. She never liked the people in there, especially not the Guild and the very vile Judge Fang. She didn't feel sorry for Gentle Breezes. It was her choice – simple as that. However, she shrugged the thought of the attractive Gentle Breezes with fat, sleazy Judge Fang. It literally gave her the goosebumps.
"Ah, Silk Fox! Come here, come here! I'd like to introduce you to Crimson Khana!" Wu beamed a massive smile at Lian, which made her blush. She silently thanked her face mask for the umpteenth time for covering her red tints. Good god, why is a woman reducing a princess to a blushing frivolous noble woman?
Khana quickly gave her a small bow. "It is an honour to meet you, Silk Fox. Wu has told me much about you."
"I dare hope it was nothing bad!" Lian joked.
Khana did not notice the subtle hint and replied, "No, of course not. Wu has talked greatly about your beauty, wit and your combat prowess. It is regretful that I cannot join you both on your mission." The red hint on Lian's face managed to glow even more, much to Lian's slight annoyance.
"Lian, what's wrong?" Wu looked at Lian, putting a hand on Lian's shoulder. "I... I feel like a fever's coming. I think I'd best go..." Lian turned away and walked.
"Wait!" Lian turned around and saw Wu with a concerned expression on her face. Lian did not know that Wu cared for the concealed princess that much. That expression was slightly cute to Lian. "I'll come with you. So shall I see you tomorrow night, Khana? Not only I'd love to see you before you go, I owe you a beer for that bet!" Khana grinned, giving a slight nod.
Lian didn't exactly want to talk to Wu about herself. She was confused from the last conversation they both had when they were alone and she wanted more time to dwell on it. Lian signalled Wu to sit down on the floor in the empty campsite. Where exactly was everyone?
"About me? I am Princess Sun Lian the Heavenly Lily. What more are you worthy of knowing?"
Wu was smiling and gazed into Lian's eyes thinking of a question. She dismissed Lian's attitude, she was a noble at heart and still had much to learn. However, she knew that Lian had a kind and compassionate heart; she just didn't like to show it. Wu wondered why Lian forged such a cold exterior. "Well... why don't you start with your childhood?"
The Heavenly Lily frowned. "I do not remember ever having a childhood. My... my mother died just before the end of the Long Drought, when I was only few weeks old, and as you know, my uncle died too. Unless like you said, Sun Li is actually still alive..."
Wu looked at Lian amusingly at the remark but pressed on, "What about tutors or servants?"
"Ha! The tutors were too afraid to punish me, and too ingratiating to teach me anything useful. So I learnt other stuff for myself, and quickly did I find ways to escape from the Palace. Obviously, they daren't report about my 'disappearances' as they were afraid they would get punished. They would scurry around all day trying in vain to find me." Lian shook her head at the memories of her childhood. It seemed like decades ago, when Tailor Xu made her the costume that changed her life. Her gratefulness for Xu knew no bounds, just for this one simple act.
The very costume that turned her into Silk Fox.
Wu frowned slightly, which confused the Princess. "Isn't that a little bit dangerous for a young lady to do?"
"I... Yes, it was. It was risky, and even though I didn't realise how dangerous it was, I made some vital mistakes and that shaped the person I am now. I met all sort of people in the city! I met the peasant, the homeless, the thieves, the fighters!" She still remembered very vividly the very first beggar she met. It was worse than Lian could ever imagine, being sheltered in her floating palace of a home. Still, even though the beggar didn't have anything, she was not mean or cruel or anything of that sort and it quickly surprised the Princess.
Wu smiled. "I sometimes forget how restricting it can be, for someone in your position... Even if you got the wealth and the power, you don't get freedom...normally." This prompted a rare chuckle from the Heavenly Lily.
"Yes! As Silk Fox, I could get information I normally couldn't get as the Heavenly Lily. Even Lotus Assassins overlook the beggar on the street, but she still has eyes and ears." She wondered what happened to that very beggar... After all, Anyi the Mad provided many useful information.
"So... Nobody notices that you are gone for a long time?" Wu raised an eyebrow.
"Well... There are many excuses for a vain Princess to retreat from sight for days." Just like her incredibly vain father. Although what exactly her father does in his 'retreat' eludes her. "My father encourages this. And besides, if courtiers ever discovered that I was not where I said I would be, who would dare question the Heavenly Lily?"
"Mmm... I'm sure they have their own versions to that... A secret lover perhaps! How scandalous! How exciting!" Wu clapped her hands like a little girl. Lian honestly did not know what to except from the Smiling Lotus at times. Even though she enjoyed it, she pretended that she was ever so slightly offended.
"Wu! Don't be ridiculous..." Wu nudged Lian and Lian sighed again, "All right, maybe they would speculate those things... Nobles and their ridiculous amount of free times and do nothing productive!" It irked the Princess more than she would let Wu know. "I loved being the Silk Fox though. It gave me a freedom, and gave me a slight sense of... normality."
Wu nodded. Lian, however, knew that Wu had never had the desire to be wealthy or well known, and that she just wanted to see her old Master. Wu opened her eyes, and then narrowed it playfully. Lian did not like this sudden change of expression on Wu's face. It looked rather devious...
"So, why don't you tell me of your first love?"
The concealed Princess jerked her head back slightly. "That is a very... improper request to ask of a Princess... unless you make me feel more comfortable. I've gone on so much about myself... What about you? What was your childhood like?"
"That is a question I don't normally get... I'm afraid it's a little bit boring. My parents were killed just before the Long Drought. When... your father assaulted Dirge." Sensing that Lian was not comfortable with this and feeling guilty about the actions of her father, she suddenly moved on, "so I was rescued by Master Li. I've trained at Two Rivers practically my whole life. My best friend was Dawn Star and I hated that bastard Gao the Lesser. Humph. Lesser in all regards, damn straight..."
Lian chuckled, then suddenly wondered what she meant by 'in all regards'. She decided that she didn't want to know the answer. Wu continued, "and the rest, you already know."
"Wow. That is very brief. What about..." Lian wanted to ask this question for a long while, but was scared. "Is there anyone you care about?"
Wu stared into Lian's oak-coloured eyes. "Well. I guess that you can say that there is someone. A... noble, perhaps."
Lian was suddenly at loss for words. Bloody hell. Shit. What exactly does this girl do to my tongu- I mean, my mind? Yet again, you render me speechless.
The princess quickly and weakly made some excuses and retreated to her tent, much to the amusement of Wu.
"Blasted girl." Lian muttered to herself before drifting off to an uneasy sleep.