3. Sly fox
||4 years later||
I'm now sitting at a banquet celebrating my twelfth birthday. You'd wonder, why the fuck are you staying here Clarity, in this strange, strange world with strange traditions and an even stranger culture?
Well, to put it simply...
I can't escape.
I'm trapped in this little paradise with good food and an awesome family. I'm cared for and looked after and in the last few years of me taking the original Ai Mingxia's place, I've learnt a lot about this place. That, translated in my dictionary would be...I became too attached so now I don't want to leave.
I mean, I didn't have anything to live for in my previous life. I didn't have family, friends or even a comfortable, safe place to call home.
But here, I had it all. I could be myself, learn as much as I wanted, be it maths or be it instruments. I liked to absorb any form of information and use it, although education was poor in this era, my existence proved to be more advantageous than I had thought.
I was nominated a 'genius' the spring I turned ten, and debuted in higher society as such. An elegant, young princess made me valuable not only to this kingdom, but also to the surrounding countries.
Either way, being an intellectual gave me the power to make my own decisions.
Believe me, most ladies in this dynasty do not have that freedom.
"Hey, Ai!" A voice reached my ears and I sat up on my cushioned chair to find brown feline eyes that belonged to no one other than...
"Feng Chen! Lee Chen!" Yes, I also had two older brothers. My eyes flew towards my mother and father on their perspective thrones and then back towards my half brothers "Why are you two here?"
"Hush!! Father thinks we're mingling with the nobles, but I can no longer do so, it's so tiring, so I came to see my cute little sister" Feng Chen grinned and I grinned back.
I've never had siblings, but I found it was nice to mess around with these two, even though their mother hated me with all her heart and they were both slightly older.
Palace concubines could be such a pain in the ass. I still couldn't get used to it.
"Come on princess, we know you're bored too, let's go somewhere more fun!" Lee Chen, the youngest prince said and I giggled at the mischief in his eyes.
"Not if we get in trouble!" I warned them as I pried myself off my seat and ran towards the two, my long dress nearly tripping me on the way.
"Be careful! You nearly fell!" Feng Chen admonished me and I laughed. Him being four years older and maturer then the rest was a bit refreshing. Especially since Lee Chen was a young sword master but still an immature little brat.
Only, I didn't mind it at all. The king of this country really did take pride in his children, and he always made time for the three of us in his busy life. So all of us grew up into lovely monsters.
"So, where are we going?"I asked curiously as Lee Chen grabbed my hand to steady my footing.
"It's a secret, since it's your birthday" Lee winked and I rolled my eyes. I don't understand why teenage boys have to pretend to be all mysterious to be fun.
What did he mean by 'secret'?
I did not like surprises. And I never ever will.
We made our way down the dark corridors towards our usual route when a figure popped out of the dark and gave us a heart attack.
"Young masters, you're not allowed to take the princess out of the palace!" The soldier warned us and we took a step back.
Great. Birthday fun is ruined.
"Party pooper" I sighed "Fine, I'll have to go back now, but thanks for trying to cheer me up, I'm sincerely grateful" I bowed and left the two princes and the guard behind to make my way down towards the courtroom where the festivities were taking place. That's when I caught a shadow in the hallway.
"Who is it?" I called out in the darkness and the figure came to an abrupt stop.
"Huh? Who are you?" It questioned in utter disdain which made me huff in annoyance.
"I asked first!"
"Well, if you don't answer, I won't either" The masculine voice said which made me even more impatient.
I bowed tentatively, not letting my guard down for even a second "I'm princess Ai Mingxia from this kingdom"
The person in the dark gasped "You're serious?"
I frowned "Why would a lady like me lie?"
"Because you're a sly fox underneath it all, right?"He chuckled when my eyes widened in absolute shock. A fox, he's telling me I'm a fox.
How does he know?
In the original storyline, nobody finds out about Ai Mingxia's true background and the kingdom's empresses' deal with the emperor. Not until Ai Mingxia's powers come to the surface and she's condemned along with her kingdom.
Nobody should be able to tell so soon, that the kingdom's emperor fell in love with a fox spirit, that the empress is actually a shapeshifter underneath her mysterious beauty.
That the princess has also inherited half of her mother's abilities.
Nobody knew till one day, the fox came to the palace.
He's the fox.
The shadows dispersed and a gentleman appeared in front of me, with a devilish smirk on his face "The daughter of the empress, huh?"
His eyes were as purple as mine. They evaluated me intensively and only when I meekly cleared my throat did he meet my gaze again.
"You still haven't told me your identity" I pushed forwards, inching closer and closer till I could really look into his eyes.
They were awfully similar to mine.
Awfully similar to the empress...
His eyes twinkled suddenly as the moonlight caught them glazing "I'm Jin Wei, the empress is my mother" He grinned playfully "And...you'd be my dear dear sister"
Oh fudgety fudge.
I knew handsome guys were just a trap. This guy...he's the fox from the book! Oh shit, maybe the change in my character brought this event to appear much too soon? Oh god, and here I was thinking I could somehow run away if things went south.
"Stop lying! I'm mother's only child! You do realise that this is treason which you speak of, right?" I pretended to be shocked, which to be honest...I really was.
At my acting skills, of course.
His brows furrowed in confusion "Listen, you little brat, even though you have the empire's royal mark on your body, you still belong to nature since a fox's blood runs through your veins, mother just wanted to keep us safe, especially you since you were tiny at the time, but you've grown now, so I've decided to take you away"
Oh hell no!
I like my life of luxury, let me enjoy it while I still can!
"I don't believe you" I scrunched my nose in disgust "You have bright red hair, so you're obviously a scam"
As I said, I'm a twelve-year-old lady living in a palace.
I can afford to be irritating and irrational sometimes.
"Mother has bright red hair too! Fine, that is not an issue, I'll save you from this terrible, stinky humans and turn my hair black if you promise to run away with me" He tried to negotiate and I huffed.
As if I'd want to leave now. I had a kingdom to save if I really wanted to become a main character.
"Listen, I don't care, you can keep on living as you have now, and I'll do the same, ok? I don't want to leave my family behind" I told him "And you're a stranger, what makes you think I'll leave with you just because we share the same blood?"
He eyed me for a second before chuckling to himself "You're tiny but you have a big mouth" He shook his head "Fine then, do that if that's what you want, mother was planning on faking her death so that we could run away from here and live peacefully, guess that won't happen anymore"
What does he mean by that?
The Empress died in the original storyline, I just don't remember it since she was such a small fragment of the story! This is so troublesome, maybe I'm changing the storyline completely...
"Mother? Fake her death? What are you talking about?" I demanded answers.
"Oh, she hasn't told you yet, has she? Fox spirits can't die, so if she keeps living without ageing, people will get suspicious, you know?" He grinned and his fangs glinted in the dark "You're half-human, so they might be able to kill you-"
"Lady princess? Where are you? His Majesty the emperor is calling for you!" My maid's voice reached my ears and I tried to ignore it as I glared at the tall fox in front of me.
He must have fought tons of guards to enter the palace without alarming anybody. I had to give him credit for that. And since he came all the way here, I won't let him go empty-handed.
I'll take this to my advantage.
As an opportunity.
Who knows? It might actually save me from my doomed fate.
"Jin Wei, let's make a deal. The night I turn eighteen, take me away then, both me and mother will be prepared. If you can wait till then, I'm sure you'll be fulfilled" I smiled, offering him my hand.
He looked at me suspiciously before grinning "That's ok with me, I've waited twelve years in the village, I can wait six more" And then he shook my hand "Although I do not understand this handshake. Shouldn't we be sharing a part of our mana as a pact?"
"No! That won't be necessary, I'm sure I'll get bored of this palace life in a few years, I guarantee you that I'll willingly leave with you then" I assured him, leaving out the real reason behind the deal to myself.
Since I've read the book, I knew some pieces of the future that nobody else did. Like the fact that on the night of my eighteenth birthday...this kingdom will fall into ruin. The night of tragedy they, called it.
I wished to avoid it at all costs.
I knew from the book that Jin Wei was not much of a danger, his true intentions were clear from the beginning, all he wanted was to keep his family safe.
He was no threat to my life, so I trusted him.
"Then it's a deal" He smiled and kissed my hand, something you'd never see a modern man do. It was a tradition in this era.
"It's a deal" I promised.
And I intended to keep that promise forever.