Xiaogua: Xiaogua is currently 18 years old, but he used to be a little orphan who was found by merchants, then brought to Kun Shang's hometown to be turned into a fisherman, working under Lord Kun. In those years in the village, he was called a water demon because he possesses the water element and does not have good control, leading to large outbursts of uncontrollable powers. His goal in life is to simply take the powers away so he can be treated as a normal human being by others.
After observing that they were not martial artists, disregarding the fact that Xiu'er was abnormally fast, he felt trustworthy enough to tell them about himself. He also pushed to the back of his head the idea that she was incredibly proficient with her hand motions. The one she had used against him when they were fighting over the orange.
Sitting at a table of four in the tavern, they talked while they ate. A tavern such as this was a typical place for martial artists to come and chat about the latest news among the martial arts community. The tables were set up in four columns, leaving a gap in the middle for a walkway. At the end of the walkway was a staircase leading to a mezzanine hallway with wooden balusters. Left of the staircase was the counter where the tavern owner sat, sliding his fingers away at the abacus and greeting customers by nodding his head.
Xiu'er, Kun Shang, Silang, and Xiaogua sat on the fourth column, fourth table back.. Their table was teeming with so many dishes the waiter struggled to catch up with their orders. Dish after dish, Xiu'er and her brother managed to order the entire menu, even the side dishes.
Kun Shang explained to the beggar siblings that he came from the capital, he used to hold a job in the Palace, but his hometown was far in the east. He didn't want to go into further details about what his job was, the Emperor's personal bodyguard, and what his job was now, the Three Irrational Missions.
He attempted to ask them who they were, but got shushed by Xiu'er, who insisted they talk after they eat. He watched her shove down bowls after bowls of rice down her throat. Each new dish that was set on the table was just in time to be swapped out by the finished previous one. Xiaogua and Kun Shang were amazed to see Silang drink urns after urns of wine. He had already gone through three and was currently on his fourth urn. He was definitely someone who could hold his liquor.
Xiu'er choked on a mouthful of rice and bun and reached for her brother's bowl of wine. She took a large sip then put it back on the table. Silang popped a piece of meat into his mouth, retrieved his wine bowl back and poured water into a different cup for her instead. A'Li was on one side of the table, guarding all the desserts and sweets with his life.
Kun Shang had never seen anyone commit the gluttony sin as much them.
After gradually calming down from the massive amount of food and drinks, Kun Shang learned that five years ago, Xiu'er adventured out from her home with the company of her older brother and monkey. They had originated from the border of the northern Kingdom of Yanwei, but had to leave her farm home after her parents died from accidentally drinking infected water. Her only living relative, as told by her parents, was an uncle whom they insisted would take care of her and her brother from now on.
"Where are you guys planning to go to find your uncle?" Xiaogua asked.
"It's gonna take some time." Xiu'er answered. She reached across for her brother's bowl of wine but he took it away just in time, and pushed her bowl of water towards her. She admitted defeat and just drank the water. "But we might have a fond idea of where he might be. In his last letter to my parents, he mentioned studying in a school in Wanping. When we got to Wanping and asked around, we learned that he had not lived there for over five years. His neighbors told us that he had taken a position as an apprentice in the capital, but have no clue exactly where he was. We've been planning to go to the capital and search for him. But I heard the capital is so big we don't know where to start searching or when we'll find him. If we can find him at all, that is."
Still curious about something else, Kun Shang brought up the last time he encountered Xiu'er on the outskirts of the town was almost a week ago.
Why were they still hanging around in the area? He thought and asked.
Xiu'er wimp-ly replied that they were both terrible with directions.
Kun Shang almost choked on his water and mentally facepalmed.
The waiter finally brought a bowl of greatly requested oranges for Xiu'er, which strangely uplifted her spirits, but for Kun Shang, they slightly reminded him of a certain confrontation. She tapped an orange in front of Xiaogua to get his attention and asked about him.
Xiaogua shyly replied with a blushed face that he was a fisherman who worked for Kun Shang's father. Kun Shang quickly added that they are currently traveling together for other reasons.
Xiaogua kindly brought up the idea that they could assist them in traveling to the capital, since they were heading that way anyways. Kun Shang was going to respectfully decline the suggestion, but couldn't refuse when Xiu'er was almost brought to tears hearing the assistance.
Finally, someone offered to bring them to the capital to find their uncle.
Kun Shang didn't know what to think. He didn't have time to reunite orphans with their relatives. He was still clueless about his own task, constantly thinking about who he could discuss it with, but he doesn't know anyone in jianghu who could help.
Either way, hearing that they were from Yanwei, maybe they could help return the favor and provide one small hint for him.
Kun Shang sat up taller and asked the beggars that since they were from Yanwei, had they seen the Dreamer Princess of Yanwei before.
Xiu'er turned to her brother, they gave each other a silent blank look before their mouths opened hysterically and they were laughing out loud.
"Have-you-seen-the-Princess-of-Yanwei-Kingdom?" Silang mocked his voice. How foolish of him to ask if farmers had seen the Princess of Yanwei? They live on a farm, she lives in the Palace. Did she look like the type to have a green thumb? Or walk around the street greeting villagers like a fairytale?
Kun Shang clenched his fist underneath the table before slowly releasing it. Couldn't they have shown a little more respect in their response?
He took a deep breath, then calmly explained that currently, there had been a lockdown on Yanwei Kingdom, asking if they'd heard of anything similar.
"What kind of lockdown?" Xiu'er asked.
"I'm not sure of the reason for the lockdown. All I know is that Yanwei had been on a lockdown for two years and words had just reached us. Though everything seemed normal from the outside because people are still going in and out, politics and inside the walls of the Palace may not. Maybe those who are residents in the Kingdom of Yanwei are unable to leave, but merchants and others are still passing through as if nothing is out of the ordinary."
The beggar sibling's energy suddenly died down. They gave each other a look that only the two of them would know, as if they were communicating through eye expression.
"Lockdown, huh?" Kun Shang wasn't expecting to see the sadness in their eyes. Both their eyebrows slouched down at the same time and their shoulders dropped. "You mean we can't ever go back?"
He knew it was a rhetorical question but he answered it anyway.
"We don't know for sure. For all I know, it might not even be a good idea to go back because the Emperor of Yanwei also indicated an extensive raise of taxes. It's best that you look forward to finding your uncle and focus on your behavior. With that being said, please do not participate in any criminal act under my watch, if you wish to travel with me, that is."
As Kun Shang, Xiaogua, and Silang continued to talk about accommodating travels in the next upcoming days, Xiu'er recognized a group of people that walked into the tavern and sat down on the same row as them. The female in the front was Gou Qingzhao, the aggressive Third Miss of Eastern Double Blade Sect, leading three subordinates as they entered.
Xiu'er completely disposed of the moral Kun Shang had just said when she eyeballed the small lump on the Miss's hip that could only be one thing.