The porcelain cup fell to the ground with a loud crash. The maids, servants, and disciples within the dining hall all immediately collapsed to their knees in shock. The imposing figure sitting at the head of the table turned his burning red eyes to the small boy who had fallen to the ground. Shards from the cup dug into his palms and his knees. The silence in the room made it hard for the trembling boy to gather himself, but even worse was the horrifying migraine that racked itself through his brain in that very moment.
The book the boy was holding had fallen in front of him, with its pages sprawled open. The man sitting at the head of the table stood slowly and made his way over with little haste. He stooped to the ground and picked up the book. A darkened expression flashed through his eyes. In one fluid motion, Crimson Flames burst from his fingertips and engulfed the book. He quickly scooped the boy from the floor and turned to the aide at his side.
“Quickly, call for Physician Lv.”
The man rushed the child to his chambers, along with an entourage of about twenty other servants.
By the time Physician Lv arrived, the man had a horrible look in his eyes that made the woman tremble where she stood. However, upon seeing the child’s condition, she quickly discarded her own fear and rushed to the boy’s side.
The shards from the cup were plucked out and his hands had been expertly bandaged by the man at his side. However, the child was burning from a high fever and pained cries escaped his lips, as if he were being tortured. Physician Lv glanced at the horrifying man by her side hesitantly until the man lifted his hand.
The disciples at his side stepped forward and held the boy down temporarily, but both disciples were sweating in anxiety. Their eyes urged the physician to hurry and quickly examine the child.
The examination took a long, painful hour. Eventually, the physician managed to draw up a quick calming concoction. It was brewed within another hour, given to the boy, and silence fell over the room once again.
The man sat silently beside his son. His large hand held the small one in his palm and he slowly raised his gaze to look at the physician beside him.
“T-The Young Lord’s mentality has taken a grave hit. He—”
“Just tell me if he is going to live or not.”
Physician Lv (Lü; 呂) gulped. “He will live…he’ll live…but…”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “If you stutter one more time, I’ll cut out your tongue.”
“He will live, but it is unsure of what his state of mind will be coming out of this tribulation,” Physician Lv quickly spoke. She gulped. “The Young Lord already suffered from mental trauma after being kidnapped as an infant. This Physician is afraid that this will only further damage him. If he wakes, Your Excellency must be prepared to…to face the worst situation.”
The Devil Lord took a deep breath. His cold expression showed nothing of how worried he was, but his grip on the small boy’s hand tightened.
“And what would be the worst situation?”
“That,” Physician Lv gulped. She glanced at the feverish boy. The fear in her eyes gave way to pity and sympathy. “That the Young Lord may wake up…unresponsive.”
“…Very well. I will call you back once he wakes. You are dismissed.”
“Thank you, Your Excellency.”
Physician Lv quickly left the heavy-aired room. On her way out, she nearly ran into two frantic looking men. The two men met her gaze and the one dressed in flamboyant red robes quickly stopped her. Her shoulders were grabbed and she was pulled to the side, much to her distaste. But her agitation settled when she felt the trembling hands on her shoulders. She looked at the men in front of her, lowered her head, and slowly shook her head.
“W-what does that mean?” the man dressed in red shakingly asked.
“Cuihong, calm down,” the gentler of the two soothed. He glanced at Physician Lv with a forced smile. “Physician Lv is my little cousin—I mean…is the Young Lord okay?”
The tears Physician Lv had been trying to hold back this entire time finally made it to the surface. She bit down on her lower lip. “What…what the Young Lord read was a cursed artifact that showed one their worst future. As an adult, it will damage the psyche; as a cultivator, it will drive them into Qi Deviation. As a child…”
Physician Lv held her head in her hands as she sobbed. “A child wouldn’t even be able to bear that kind of stress.”
Zhào Cuīhóng (赵崔红) swooned, but was luckily caught by Jia Chiying.
The normally gentle disposition Jiǎ Chíyǐng (贾池影) carried was overridden by his grief and anger. His grip on Zhao Cuihong tightened as he turned to the disciples who had been following behind him.
“Close the gates of Black Mane Palace,” Jia Chiying said darkly. “Gather every single servant, maid, and disciple in the Main Hall and lock the doors. I will question every single one of them myself, to see who gave that cursed artifact to the Young Lord.”
“Y-Yes, Lord Black Koi Saint,” the disciples stuttered out.
Jia Chiying turned to Physician Lv. “It’s been hard on you, Physician Lv. Please…please rest.”
Physician Lv nodded silently. She wiped the tears from her eyes and quickly fled.
Jia Chiying gently propped Zhao Cuihong up and pursed his lips. “He’ll be fine.”
Zhao Cuihong met Jia Chiying’s eyes. His face was pale and his eyes were weary. He gripped the front of Jia Chiying’s clothes tightly.
“How can you be so sure? Even Physician Lv said that a child wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of stress,” Zhao Cuihong said tremblingly.
Jia Chiying shook his head. “He has a long lifeline—that’s what the divination master said. He survived when he was kidnapped; he will be fine again this time.”
Zhao Cuihong lowered his head and cried. “He’s just a child! Why would anyone try to…?”
“Maybe the cursed artifact wasn’t meant just for him,” a voice said behind them.
Zhao Cuihong glanced up into the skeleton head, hidden poorly under the cloak. “What do you mean by that, Niè Chénhuí (聂臣回)?”
Nie Chenhui shrugged. “What do you think my words mean, Lord Zhao?”
“Was it an attempt on His Excellency?” Jia Chiying asked in horror.
Zhao Cuihong’s eyes widened. “They…wanted to get rid of two birds with one stone.”
Nie Chenhui hummed. “Luckily, His Excellency is smarter than that and didn’t read any of the words on the page. My assumption is that the boy was not meant to open the cursed artifact. But with the amount of demonic qi that lingers on trash like that, along with the fact that the Young Lord is basically a regular child, he would have slowly been eaten from the outside in before he can become an adult.”
He glanced at the tightly closed doors. “They wanted to get rid of our master, along with his heir while they were at it.”