It was dark yet she could felt the world was swirling around her.
Who am I? Where am I?
It was suffocating. She couldn’t breathe. She tried again and again, each time, harder than before.
A burst of light came along with the flow of air. With the first gulp of air, came in the first rush of memories.
Memories of a bloody fight with corpses strewn everywhere.
The final moments with her husband.
With those memories, came in the feelings. Regret, guilt, pain.
Trapped inside the darkness with muffled sounds around her, she screamed and cried her heart out.
And before she knew it, her consciousness faded again.
She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear properly. But she felt warmth and softness everywhere. It was like she was buried inside a giant pile of cotton wool.
Coupled with the flickering of her consciousness and the whirlpool of emotions brewing inside her, it took her embarrassing amount of time to realize that she was now an infant.
It took her even longer to realize that she has been reborn as a boy no less. She wondered how long has it been since her death.
Did her kids survived?
Did that troublemaker manage to protect them?
Will she get to see them again?
Did her husband get second chance to live as well?
And that was when she promptly shut down her mind lest she fell down into yet another painful rabbit hole.
She got some of her questioned answered when she fully regained her vision.
“Finally!!” was the first word that came in her mind. She was getting sick of the dark blurry world she was being trapped in.
How long has it been? Two months?
She was not entirely sure. It was hard to keep track of time when you were a baby with no circadian rhythm.
She was snapped out of her thought when she heard a chuckle. That was when the sight in front of her finally registered in her brain.
She took back her words. She would rather stay in that blurry world of hers.
She has a sudden irresistible urge to stab someone. Particulary the disgusting pig who was currently hugging and cooing at her.
But she couldn’t. Because she still haven’t regain the control of her limbs yet.
She settled with two minutes-long loud piercing cry. She was hoping to burst that pig’s eardrums.
At least, she managed to knock herself out into sweet oblivion from the oxygen deprivation. She counted it as a small victory. Maybe, she would wake up from this nightmare.
She woke up to the concerned faces of her parents.
“Oh, it wasn’t a nightmare” was her first thought.
The second thought was a chaotic mess. Horror and relief mixed into one.
Her father was Jin Zixuan.
Her supposedly future son-in-law. Or she should say her current son-in-law. Who was also her current father. Who was currently staring at her with teary-eyes.
Which meant her mother was Jiang Yanli. Her daughter. Who was currently staring at her with an increasingly concerned face.
Which meant the pig just now was her grandfa- Nope, she was not going to finish that thought.
She was relieved that it meant her daughter was well and alive right now, and possibly so were her two sons.
But, what the fuck?
Not even in the wildest dream that she would become her daughter’s son.
Tears began to well up in her eyes.
She took back her previous wish. Even if it was a nightmare, it was one that she did not wish to wake up from.
She steadfastly ignored the existence of that disgusting pig.
She threw up again just at the mere thought of that. Let alone at the sight of him.
At this rate, she was going to be malnourished.
Being an infant has its pros and cons.
The main downside was her body refused to cooperate with her. She could roll over and sit by her own every now and then but even that took all the energy she had, so crawling was out of the question.
There was also that stubborn pig who wouldn’t stop bothering her despite all those vomit stains that she gave him. And then, there were his wandering eyes that kept straying towards A-Li.
She eyed Suihua mournfully.
“Awww, did my little boy want to play with Suihua?”
She glared balefully at her foolish son-in-law. She did not want to play with Suihua. Instead, she wanted to run Suihua through the pig.
She wished her boy, A-Cheng was here. Maybe, she could sneak away with Zidian for a moment and wrapped it around that pig’s neck.
Or heck, even Wei Wuxian would do. Where was that brat when she needed him to rain down chaos?
She needed a needle. Or two.
The moment she could start crawling, she was going to bury those needle into that pig’s eyes.
The best thing about being an infant was that she was free. Free from the stupid meetings with those stubborn elders and sect leaders. Free from paperworks. Free from expectations. And most of all, free from being the centre of the gossips.
She hated gossips with a passion of thousand suns. Those gossips were what fuelled her anger and irrationality in her previous life.
Her heart arched whenever she thought of the past. She reflected a lot for the past few weeks. She let herself tumbled down those rabbit holes. There were only so many things one could do to entertain oneself when one was a baby after all.
She was well aware that she wasn’t that good of a person to begin with. She was petty, bull-headed and short-tempered. She led anger and jealousy ruled over her more often than not.
Looking at how Yanli and Jixuan doted all over her with so much love and care only intensified her guilt and regrets.
Would things have gone differently if she and Fengmian had talked over their feelings instead of bottling those up? Instead of lashing at one another passive aggressively?
If she let go of the resentment instead of holding it like a lifeline, would things have been better?
She often found herself getting lost in those what-ifs.
She vowed to change in this lifetime. She did not want any tragedy to repeat again.
She has been hearing a lot about Yiling Patriach lately.
Yiling? Burial Mounds? There are people living in that dead land and even become a lord there? Is that person a genius or a lunatic?
She noticed how her daughter’s eyes hardened a little every time the whispers about Yiling Patriach reached her ears. How her grips trembled ever so slightly.
It wasn’t until she listened to the one particular conversation between Yanli and Madam Jin that she found out about the identity of the Yiling Patriach.
To call it a conversation was too nice. The conversation almost dissolved into a full-blown argument if it wasn’t for her timely crying intervention.
She should have known. To attempt the impossible. There was no one who stuck to Jiang’s clan motto like a glue other than the madlad Wei Wuxian himself.
Wei Wuxian was the Yiling Patriach. The rumoured demonic cultivator who was raising undead army in the Burial Mound. The rumoured traitor who turned against the world to protect the wretched Wen dogs.
What has happened in the time I was gone? How? Why?
What happened between A-Cheng and Wei Wuxian? As much as it irked her in the past, those two were inseparable. She hasn’t had the chance to see A-Cheng yet. She had thought both of them were busy working together to rebuild Lotus Pier.
She refused to believe that nincompoop has fallen into depravity. Wei Wuxian might be a nuisance and a rule-breaker but she has a hand in raising that brat. She knew him. He has too big of a heart and self-sacrificing tendency. He reminded her so much of Cangse Sanren that it became the main reason why she inadvertently lashed out at him most of the time.
She would rather let that pig coddled her than to believe that the buffoon of hers turned into an evil cultivator.
Judging by how Yanli insisted to invite Wei Wuxian to the 100-days celebration despite all the disagreements, it was clear that Yanli believed in him too.
It was one week before her 100-days celebration that she overheard it.
People sure were loose-lip around infants and children.
“Hey, did you hear about it? That Yiling Patriach is invited to the celebration. I hear Young Madam Jin fought tooth and nail for that.” The maid whose name was Xiao Qiu said while lathering her little young master with soap bath.
The other maid who was sorting clothes beside her snorted. “I never thought I would see a person that eager to welcome death towards himself.”
“Huh, what do you mean?”
“You didn’t hear this from me, but my brother said that there’s gonna be an ambush waiting for that guy. There’s no way Sect Leader would let the demonic cultivator ruin his grandson’s celebration after all.”
“Shhhhh, don’t shout. This is supposed to be a secret.” The maid whispered.
“But Young Madam Jin is going to be heartbroken if that happened.”
“Well, she can’t do anything about it. She didn’t have any power in this Koi Tower. She just has to suck it up. Who ask her to- Acckkk, my eyes!!!!”
“Ahh, quick, go wash it with water. I’ll take care of lil’ young master here,” said Xiao Qiu.
Once the other maid left, Xiao Qiu turned towards her little charge. “Mou, you did that on purpose, aren’t you? Splashing water at her like that.” She poked his nose and giggled. “You’re so cute, trying to protect your mother despite only being three months old.”
She got splashed slightly with the bath water as a result.
Nobody gets to talk shit about my kids.
She was getting a headache. There were four more days before her 100-days celebration.
She just learnt how to crawl and barely able to stand on her own. She couldn’t talk yet. Nor could she write. How was she going to warn A-Li about the incoming ambush towards Wei Wuxian?
No one was allowed to be harmed or die on her 100-days celebration. Not especially her kids. The pig was an exception since he was not anyone.
She could kill the pig. She was willing to bet with her life that the pig was the mastermind behind this.
She stood corrected. That pig was one of the causes of this. He wasn’t smart enough to pull this underhanded scheme.
Someone was behind this.
And she did not have enough time to figure out who was it considering her current limits.
Think, Ziyuan. Think.
There ought to be something. Something she could do to expose the ambush. Or stop the ambush.
She needed to figure out who would lead the ambush in the first place.
Someone of high ranking and trusted enough by the pig to command the ambush troupe.
Someone who hated Wei Wuxian.
There were a lot of people who fitted the criteria.
Her finger twitched. She missed her Zidian.
Her thought was interrupted by the sighing of her son-in-law.
“What happened, dear?” Yanli, her ever kind daughter asked.
The question was answered with yet another sigh. He sure sighed a lot these days. “Jixun is up to something. I’m sure of it. He has been oddly quiet and skittish these days and I really really afraid that whatever he is going to do would ruin our son’s first celebration. And then, there’s the matter with the elder-” The complaint droned on with an increasing whining.
She stopped listening past that point and rolled her eyes discreetly. What kind of future sect leader whines like a dog?
So, Jin Jixun, huh? That loud arrogant rat-like kid? Koi Tower sure is full of annoying pests.
She did not have other choices. She really didn’t have much time left to figure out other possible culprits.
She decided to bank on this. Wei Wuxian better prayed his luck won out.
Her guess was spot on. It took her three days of spying around Jin Jixun to figure out the location of his hidden army.
She then has to wake up at crack ass of dawn on her own celebration day because it took her hours to sneak out from her room towards the area where the troupe gathered and hid among their supplies.
That brat better be grateful.
She couldn’t believe she still has to clean up after the brat’s mess in her second life.
Things escalated way too fast from then on.
Too fast for her to try firing out the signal firework that she stole from her daughter.
There were shouts and chaos and arrows everywhere.
Threw in her son-in-law, a sentient fierce corpse and her idiot brat who was currently being surrounded by unstable demonic energy, it was a recipe of epic disaster.
She could see the moment Wei Wuxian lost it.
She let out the shrillest cry she could muster and amplified it with what little amount of spiritual energy she has in her reserve.
It was too much for her current body to handle.
She hoped it was enough to snap the brat out of whatever thing that was currently going inside his head.
Dark spots swarmed her vision faster than she could take another breathe in and she let gravity did the rest.
She woke up to the muffled sounds of arguments that seemed to get more heated by every second she took to collect her thought.
Wei Ying!! Zixuan!!!
She let out a cry.
She directed her gaze towards Yanli who was cradling her. Red-rimmed eyes but no tears. Good. That means those two are alright.
It did not take long for Zixuan to tumble in after receiving the news that she woke up.
She felt her irritation spiked up and made grabby hands at the miserable boy who was currently hiding behind her son-in-law.
“A-Xian, come here. Don’t you want to greet your nephew? See, he looks so excited to see you.”
Blessed her daughter who all but thrust her towards that idiot brat to hold.
“Now, hold A-Ling properly or else-”
Wei Wuxian gulped and corrected his hold on her.
Her annoyance morphed into rage after seeing her brat up close.
“Uhmmm, hi, A-Ling. This is your jiu- Arghhhh!!! Ouchhh!!! Lan Zhannn, helppp mee!!! Ouucchhhhh!!!!”
She tugged at the ahoge with all her might. Like the spirit attraction flag that attract spirit, that stupid-looking antenna must be the source of that brat’s idiocy. And she was going to rip it off no matter what.
She stared dolefully at the few strands of hairs on her hands. She would have succeeded if it wasn’t for the Lan kid who came out of nowhere to help Wei Wuxian. She was so close to reconnect those loose wires in that rascal’s brain.
By the time they reached the main hall, the guests have all but dissolved into arguments. Jixuan and Yanli were barely able to stop an all-out brawl between the Jiang clan and the rat’s army troupe.
Dang, I should have made a bigger fuss. My boy is so close to punk that rat. That was her first thought.
Her following thought was on how much her son has grown up. How much that son of hers has suffered and still suffering judging from the dark circles under his eyes and his tight shoulder.
I am sorry, A-Cheng. For leaving you alone to bear the burden of the Jiang clan.
It was a long-ass talk following that. She lost count of the number of times she dozed off.
Ultimately, it was decided that Wei Wuxian was to be put under supervision by the Jin Sect throughout the entire period of investigation. In a much less fancy term, Wei Wuxian was to be locked up in the Koi Tower for eternity because being an honest and fair investigator was not part of Jin’s job description.
She narrowed her eyes.
Wei Wuxian was an idiot. But he was her idiot. No one was allowed to punish him except herself. She already made it a point to that Wen bitch and she was not afraid to make it a point to all these pests here either.
She was about to kick a fuss but the very same Lan kid earlier beat her to it.
Huh? Since when does that Wei Wuxian has such a good relationship with the Lan clan? Especially with a stone-faced man nonetheless? What’s his name again? Lan Zhan? Isn’t he one of the so-called Twin Jade of Lan?
Yet another round of long-ass talk began. Although this time, it was more to one-sided argument as all the Lan boy did was glaring continuously at the pig and the swarms of rats.
Hmmm, not bad. She nodded approvingly at the Lan boy.
She rolled her eyes. Why am I not surprise?
That pig managed to wash his hands of this mess and pretty much pushed all the blame on Jin Jixun once the Lan sect started to get involved.
Well, at least, one rat was down.
She sighed. Who knows how many to go. What a tedious task.
If she has known about this, she would have butchered the pig in her past life. Consequences be damned.
Now, if only she could escape from the watchful gaze of Yanli and Zixuan. Both of them wouldn’t leave her alone with the staffs. Well, to be fair, both of them were under the impression that she was being kidnapped to the ambush to be used as leverage against Wei Wuxian.
But then, it was not like it was going to happen again. Not when Wei Wuxian was currently staying with them. Not when the Lan kid was acting like a guard dog who glowered at anyone bar family members that so much as getting into a one meter radius of Wei Wuxian.
She was starting to wonder whether the Lan kid has lost his sanity because of the constant exposure to the brat’s shenanigan until she saw those golden eyes.
The very same eyes that she wished were directed at her instead of Cangse Sanren once upon a time.
Those goddamn pining eyes.
Nope. I’m not touching that even with a ten feet pole. Both are adults that survived the wars. Surely, they can figure out this much on their own.
It has been more than half a year. Those pests were awfully quiet.
She still hasn’t figure out the reason why they were keeping Wei Wuxian here. She doubted it was to keep an eye on the dangerous demonic cultivation as per what the pig claimed to be.
From what she could see, that brat was fine on his own as long as no one actively antagonize him. He was still his old self albeit sicklier and thinner.
With both her kids here, naturally, her son, Jiang Cheng has more reasons to visit Koi Tower.
Not that she was not happy at this turn of event but how was she going to proceed with her pests culling plan if there were so many eyes on her? She has so many ideas to test on too.
She was currently having the biggest crisis of her current life.
Dang, would this end here? Why am I working so hard for if all these efforts are going nowhere? She sniffled.
She alternated her stare between the packet of rat poison powder in her left hand and the jug of wine on top of the table.
It was one of those very rare times where she managed to escape from everyone’s eye, so she definitely has to make good use of this chance. She wished to have a stronger poison but all the poisons were locked in the medicine hall which was too far away for her to reach.
So, she settled with rat poison which she found in the kitchen.
But how am I going to reach the table top? Why the fuck there isn’t any chair here?
“What’s that on your hand?”
“Oi’son.” She replied without thinking.
She whipped around so fast that she thought she was going to dislocate her neck.
A little boy who was one year older than her was standing by the kitchen door, head tilting sideways while staring at the small packet on her hand. It was the boy who was under both Wei Wuxian and the Lan kid’s care.
What’s his name again? A-Yan or A-Yuan or something?
She still shuddered at the thought of someone willingly putting a child under Wei Wuxian’s care.
“Hello, are you here?” The boy has moved towards while waving his hand in front of her eyes.
A-Yuan moved to take the packet away from her.
“For Ye (yeye)!” It was physically painful for her to call the pig that. “Yum (yummy) stuffs for Ye!” She hoped he didn’t hear her previous word clearly. She has never been so thankful for her lisps.
A-Yuan’s eyes widened. “Ohh, you want to give it to grand gold poo?”
I wished I can call the pig that too. She snickered every time she remembered where that name came from. It was such a beautiful day.
She nodded. “Hel’p?”
“Okay!! Here, you can climb on my back.”
She eyed him skeptically. “B’tter not drop me.”
“I won’t. I promised.” He gave her a gentle smile.
Her heart skipped a beat as she climbed into his back. “Hmphh.”
They both fell down not even a second later.