“My little candle light, do you feel bored?”
Dressed in voluminous black silk robes, mysterious symbols and characters glinting gold on the hems and lapels, a young boy of ten looked up at the smiling woman who had shown up at his Elixir Chamber.
On his young face was an expression of vigilance. “Not really.”
“What do you mean by that expression, little Ming Guang?” Lovely quicksilver eyes looked at him in rebuke and sweeping lavender robes shimmered with subtle silver threads woven within as their owner stepped inside the wide spacious room.
The boy, Ming Guang, looked at the interloper, his respected Mother, with a helpless expression. He had no choice but to pause in his studies and indulge in Elder Ming Xia’s favorite pasttime–teasing her only child.
“Nothing, Mother.” Ming Guang obediently held still as his soft white cheeks, still plump with baby fat, were pinched and kneaded like dough.
“Seriously, little boys should act like little boys. Don’t you know being too serious will stunt your growth?” Elder Ming Xia finally let go when she saw big silver blues become misty and tearful, satisfied with her masterpiece.
“Come, we have a place to visit today.” Elder Ming Xia straightened up, recovering the elegant and imposing visage put forth when facing outsiders, not a hint of the playful mischief from before.
Ming Guang looked on as Elder Ming Xia took out a jade piece from the silk pouch hanging at her waist. It was the horse piece of her Zodiac set, a powerful 12 piece Alchemical artifact set created by Elder Ming Xia.
In the blink of an eye, the finger sized jade carving of a horse grew into a tall and majestic pure white steed with golden hooves and fit with a luxurious saddle inlaid with pieces of celadon jade.
Settling in behind his respected mother on the Zodiac Horse, Ming Guang hastily gripped onto lavender robes as the Zodiac Horse cantered down the winding road leading to the foot of the Floating Cloud Mountain where they lived.
The Zodiac Horse could travel 10,000 miles in just the burning of a single candle stick. So, it seemed like barely any time had passed before the Floating Cloud Mountain faded from sight and they were arriving at a bustling city gate.
Ming Guang turned his head to look in curiosity at the people walking by and lining up to enter the city in front of them. Most were dressed in plain cotten or even sackcloths, though he saw some dressed in rich silk riding in horse drawn carriages accompanied by an entourage of servants. Of course, none of these horses could compare to the one he was on, and as they passed, the crowds parted and the several horses on the line seem to shy away, stepping uneasily in place.
Animals always did have a keener instinct when it came to sensing danger, and the Zodiac Horse was certainly a dangerous entity. It might just be a mode of transportation for mother and son but when needed it could transform into the most valiant and invulnerable battle steed and loyal fighting companion.
But Ming Guang also noticed that not only did the animals shy away, but even the people seem to display fear, head bowed respectfully as they passed the line directly and entered the city. The gate guards did not stop them to check for identifying papers either.
It was the first time he had left the Floating Cloud Mountain as his mother often told him, Alchemists should not involve themselves in secular affairs. From since he could remember, it had only ever been his honorable mother and the piles of texts on Alchemy that accompanied him. Of course, his mother’s Zodiac animals often made appearances, bringing motion and energy to his static childhood.
“Elder Ming Xia, your honored presence bring light to my humble residence.”
Ming Guang came back to himself and he peered around his mother to see a stately looking man dressed in silk scholarly robes and sporting pale blue markings across his forehead and temples. He knew from his studies that the man was a Magus, one of the Eximius races and different from the Normals he had seen lining up outside the city gates.
Elder Ming Xia dismounted revealing Ming Guang’s presence.
“This is…..?” The pleasant tenor raised slightly in polite question.
“Minister Wang, this is my son, Guang er.” Elder Ming Xia’s mild mask of elegance seem to warm up with the mention of her son and she patted Ming Guang’s shoulder before withdrawing the Zodiac Horse back into her pouch, where it posed as an unremarkable trinket once again.
“Ah, excuse my manners. Well met, my young lord. Elder, you have a handsome and talented son, so young and yet already so advanced in the art of Alchemy.” The Magus, Minister Wang subtly flattered Elder Ming Xia.
Elder Ming Xia accepted the compliment with grace, though Ming Guang could tell she was feeling quite pleased. He examined the Magus closer, this was an intelligent man, to be able to gain his mother’s good impression with just a few right placed words. While he knew how important he was to his honored mother, few knew that Elder Ming Xia, the famed female Alchemist, held indifference for everything but her only son.
He may have live secluded all this time but he would often send Zodiac Monkey to bring news of the happenings of the world below the Floating Cloud Mountain. So he knew that his honored mother had quite a reputation, famed not only for her Alchemical prowess and physical beauty, but also her peculiarities that included her refusal to join any Alchemical Sect, exiling herself from the secular world. Though many wanted to curry favor with her, not many were successful as Elder Ming Xia was largely indifferent to all kinds of flattery or material objects.
“Enough pleasantries, I have come to fulfill my debt to the Wang Clan. Shall we move forward, Minister Wang?”
“Of course, Elder. And might I suggest the young lord retire to the Contemplating Gardens at our Wang estate? To rest from the journey here.” Minister Wang spoke with a genial smile directed at Ming Guang.
“Hnn. My little candle, it will take awhile before I settle matters. Wait for me here, alright?” They had stopped outside a circular archway with a pebbled path lined with pear blossom trees. A wooden plaque next to the doorway was engraved with ‘Contemplating Gardens’.
Ming Guang watched Elder Ming Xia and Minister Wang leave around a corner before stepping through the circular archway and made his way to the resting area a little ways ahead.
Soon, he arrived at an open space area where he could see a stone table with four matching stone stools. But surprisingly, someone seemed to have already arrived before him.
Swirling steam rose from the long mouth of the teapot as a pale elegant hand poured pale green tinted tea in a matching teacup. The steam playfully swirled and danced in midair, twisting themselves in the whimsical shapes of bunnies and fish and puppies. The images were evidently the idle doing of the young Magus girl of around 15-16 years currently sitting and enjoying a pot of tea in her family home.
“Oh, who might you be?” Jet black phoenix eyes, bright like the starry night sky, turned in his direction. Like all young ladies not yet married, long black hair was worn down and fell like a waterfall down snow white brocade robes. Delicate warm jade like features looked in surprise at the newcomer but not at all alarmed.
Those observant bright eyes had already picked out the Alchemical runes stitched into his robes and they lingered on Ming Guang’s features that had a one-third resemblance to Elder Ming Xia.
“I-I apologize for intruding.” Ming Guang’s normally cool expression heated in a flush. This was the first time he had ever been so near the presence of someone around his age. Let alone one who was obviously female. His Mother’s teachings on holding respect for women had him making an attempt at politeness despite his flustered state.
A warm laugh pulled him out of his discomfort and he looked up at the Magus girl who had already stood up. She was a head taller than him, willowy and as graceful as a swan or crane.
A spring breeze blew past, ruffling the white pear blossom petals and even causing some to fall like snow. It was scenic and captivating in its simplicity.
So was the young Magus girl standing under them, seeming to blend right in among the pear blossom trees in her white robe, but at the same time also presented the most striking part in the whole ink painting.
She said, “I am Wang Qin of the Wang family. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my little lord.”
“Clancy. Clancy! Clarence!”
Clarence blinked open silver blue eyes still misted over from a long dream.
Two faces came into view, one handsome and flawless, easy and confident. One gentle and ethereal, elegant and refined.
Clarence blinked and got up. He had been laying in a bed of Cloud Blooms.
They had separated earlier to see if they might stumble upon the legendary Cloud Bloom. Clarence looked thoughtfully around him. It was a small clearing that looked like any other in the Central Garden, surrounded with Cloud Blooms but for the bare grassy patch in its center covered in fallen petals fit for a single grown person to lay stretched out.
The last thing he had remembered was stumbling upon this private little nook and deciding to sit for a while.
Silver blue eyes flickered over Wang Zifeng’s face so briefly that the other didn’t even catch it. There was a striking resemblance between Wang Zifeng and the Magus girl he had met in his long forgotten childhood.
Indeed, it had been a long dream. A long dream of a small piece of memory from his childhood.
Clarence said nothing to the other two and their inquiries. As they left, he took a last pondering look at the little nook.
As they exited the Central Garden Clarence could see the orange and purples of the setting sun in the distance. It painted everything in a warm orange glow, including the white Cloud Blooms, emphasizing their striking resemblance to the orange tinted clouds up in the sky.
It was nearing 7 so they decided to make their way to the Starway Theatre on Eximius Square, just a few blocks away. They didn’t even need Zifeng’s vehicle, so short the walk it was, so Zifeng pressed somewhere on its outer walls and it instantly shrank into a palm size miniature version small enough to pocket.
The Starway Theatre was a strange but lovely looking building made of pink marble with tall crystal windows curtained with thick ivory drapes with lavish embroidery of roses. Those curtains were currently opened for the night, the lights from hanging chandeliers appearing like beacons and stars in the dark.
Of course, Eximius Square was lit up in all its brilliance both day and night, worthy of its moniker as the “little Nevernight.” As the most lively commercial area in New Apple, Eximius Square hosted many establishments that contributed to one of the most sought after night life scenes by partygoers and revelers.
It even rivaled Nevernight, the inspiration for its moniker and a lawless island territory near the Arabian Empire and Sky Dynasty in which danger, wealth, and exhilaration went hand in hand.
They were led to their box seats just above and closest to the stage where they met Dawn who was already there, having stopped by after work.
“About time you’re here! Skirting it a bit close aren’t you?” An equally loud and cheerful voice greeted them as did that big curly mane of fiery red that rivaled even the orange sunset outside the windows.
However, Dawn was not the only one sitting inside the boxed area and Clarence automatically straightened and greeted the other occupant in the room first.
“Good evening, Professor Nightfall.”
Almond shaped dark eyes that resembled her granddaughter’s curved into a smile as they landed on the tall young man standing in front of her. She gracefully tucked a silver streaked dark curl behind an ear before reaching out an elegant silk gloved hand.
“Ow! Professor Nightfall!”
The older lady stood up in her full petite height of 5’2, even shorter than her granddaughter’s 5’4. Still, like Leila, she managed to make Clarence feel like a chastised schoolboy.
No wonder. So this was where Leila got her mysterious ability from.
The idle thought quickly flew away as Clarence was brought back with another smack on his arm.
“Wasting your skills and talent…..” Mrs. Nightfall huffed.
Clarence could only smile pleasantly as he listened to his former college professor’s chiding. It had not just been the Fairchilds and his classmates that he had surprised with his decision not to enter the Alchemist’s Council and instead open up shop from his house.
“Well, where are my manners. This boy, he truly has a knack for driving one hopping mad.” Mrs. Nightfall smiled gently at Zifeng and Mikhail, as if that explosion earlier had not happened. “What fine young men, how did such upstanding young talents come into the acquaintance of my loafer student?”
Clarence slinked over to sit with Dawn, letting out a big sigh of relief. As he watched the merry conversation going on between his former professor and the true loafers in his opinion, he muttered, “Why didn’t anyone tell me Professor Nightfall was going to be here?”
Dawn gave him a contemptuous look, “Did we need to? She’s Leila’s grandmother, of course she would be here on Leila’s debut night.”
Fine. He had asked a stupid question.
Seeing as there was still some time before the show started, Clarence said, “I’ll be right back. Got to make a quick restroom break.”
Dawn raised an unimpressed eyebrow. The excuse to make a temporary getaway was so obvious that he might as well said “I’ll be making myself scarce until the show starts when everyone will be too busy to rag on my life goal as a loafer.”
Still, as the older sister, sometimes there was a sisterly need to turn a blind eye to her lil bro’s self denial.
It was just minutes to the start of the show and Clarence had timed it perfectly. As Clarence walked left and turned right, planning to find his way back to their box based on his memory, suddenly his vision was covered in blood red and a warm breath blew lightly on his ears. A husky, almost erotic voice sounded just centimeters from his right ear, “My innocent Miranda, are you lost?”
Clarence furrowed his brows and tried to turn around only to be met with more blood red mist that seem to fill the pink marble and wine red carpeted hallways.
A low, throaty laugh echoed lightly and Clarence could feel the vibrations coming from the other’s chest. The stranger seemed to have discovered something interesting and moved even closer, an amused drawl sounded once again umcomfortably close, “Your reaction is rather attractive. What is your name now, darling?”
Clarence did not reply, long thick lashes lowered. When the other had moved close he had felt the blood in his veins moving slower than was normal.
Seeing that Clarence was silent, the other did not seem to be impatient at all. Long fingers sifted through his shoulder length blue black waves, teasing and dangerous at the same time. “What is it? Is my darling feeling shy?”
The other whispered softly in Clarence’s ear, and combined with the occasional sound of breathing, it was a constant enticement.
An enticement Clarence was certainly not feeling, particularly when that wandering hand traveled down to his neck, where it circled lightly and suggestively.
“Darling? You can’t say your name or you don’t want to tell me?”
“Then if you don’t want to say anything I think I’ll just call you my Miranda. And it’s best if my Miranda does not say anything at all.”
Upon the end of that last statement, Clarence could feel the fingers tightening slowly and leisurely. Even so, it was a grip Clarence did not underestimate.
A sense of suffocation gradually surrounded Clarence but as the air left his lungs, his mind became clearer and silver blues lifted upwards slightly, only seeing a pale sharp chin. Anything else above it seemed to be hidden in the mysterious blood red mist.
But Clarence paid it no heed and unexpectedly, he let out a breathy laugh.
Raising an arm, he let it lean lightly on the other’s shoulder, his own slender fingers imitating the other’s gesture from earlier, sifting through silky hair and twisting it gently.
He deliberately lowered his normally clear and cool, soothing voice so that it seem to take on the other’s husky undertones and said softly, “What, you asking me out?”Previous ♪✧♡TOC❀✧♪ Next