Fifteen Years Ago
Be a fierce king with a kind heart. Be a son who I can watch over with pride through the heavens.
Those were the last words his mother had spoken right before she breathed her last. Now she lay on the floor, broken, soaking in a pool of ominous red that oozed from her slit belly. Murdered right in her bedroom.
“Get off me!” Taiyuan screamed. The boy only had one digit to his age, yet a group of guards and servants were upon him to hold him down. He barely saw what was happening in the near-darkness. One moment he was screaming for his mother to wake up, then the other he was screaming for himself.
Cries of alarm, of murder, tore through the tranquil night. The sickening stench of iron mixed with a familiarly pleasing, heart-wrenching perfume. And there was the boy, thrashing next to the corpse of his mother.
They grabbed his hands and tried for his legs. When they couldn't suppress him, they kicked him to the ground. Calm, eerie moonlight streamed through the windows, ignorant to the wails of a son.
He had been a prince. But now they treated him as though he were a wild beast.
Taiyuan cried out when his hands were wrenched behind his back in an excruciating angle. He tasted dirt from the floor and sand from the shoes. He was weeping, but soon his tears seethed from grief to rage.
“I said get off me!” He kicked someone hard. As his small hands loosened his body sprung to action like an animal's instinct unleashed.
He was to be king. Hours upon days upon nights were spent on molding and broadening his perception, and his physical ability trained under the strictest martial artist was sharpened as that of the dull edge of a blade that could now cut. But nobody taught him how to control his fury. At that moment, the world bathed in scarlet hate.
The room piled with fallen bodies when Taiyuan managed to grasp a hold of his senses. He didn't know what he did, didn't know whether or not they were dead because they did not move. His wolf-like eyes shone in panic.
He bolted out of his mother's chamber.
The boy ran anywhere his feet allowed him in the dark, stumbling over the pavement, never slowed. The summer air blew with overflowing traces of despair. His heart shook with sobs. He would have been king someday. And for over anyone else, he wanted to be a good king for his mother. But he would never be, if charged with the murder of the Queen.
Alarm rang among the troops as they marched toward the southern courtyard, clangs of metal armors reverberating and awaking those asleep. Torches flared, flickered, and blazed again like vengeful spirits. The guards’ cries echoed the same accused truth.
Taiyuan avoided them with his swifter movements, his lungs burning in the humid air. Finally, he stumbled upon a large ginkgo tree with leaves weighing down the branches like a cloak of depthless green. It was their favorite spot to stroll in every breezy evening, he and his mother, and his consciousness memorized the track leading there.
But it belonged to someone else now.
Taiyuan froze. He stared in fear at the shadow lurking behind the tree’s trunk. Moonlight illuminated it a portion, revealing a figure cloaked in black.
The silhouette extended out a hand to him. “Come here, boy.”