The thousand firecracker string roared into life, as did hundreds of firecracker strings flared in joyful exuberance. Dragon dancers waved and weaved through the streets as people cheered. The palace was brighter than the sun as gold embossed orange red lanterns floated into the sky, carrying well wishes for the newly returned heir. The gates were thrown open as people, dignitaries, and ambassadors from every country came to celebrate the return of the Crown Prince of Dian.
Yu Zhu giggled in delight as she watched everything in the golden palanquin drawn through the large palace road, filled with nobles and rich merchants. People bowed and cried, “Long live the Crown Prince who has come back!” As her brother, Crown Prince Han Qin also known as Xu Long Hui road led the procession in full armor.
“Princess! Sit still.” Hua Er said as she held onto the little girl’s arm, she was dressed in her finest blue silk gown to match her mistress, her hair pined prettily with jade and silver flowers, “I will punish you if you fall out and get trampled by the crowd.”
“I just want to see my brother! He’s receiving his royal title today. I haven’t gotten to see him at all since he came into the palace 3 months ago.” Yu Zhu shouted excitedly over the roar of the crowd, “It’s not every day a dead brother comes back to life. Hua Er, what should I call him now?”
Hua Er, to Yu Zhu’s surprise, blushed, “I don’t know either.” She mumbled, “He told me to call him Long Hui. But that.. that seems so…”
“So what?” Yu Zhu asked, curious. Hua Er shook her head, embarrassed.
The procession halted at the steps leading to the main palace. The new Crown Prince jumped off his horse elegantly and came to Yu Zhu’s golden palanquin. He smiled and gave his hand to Yu Zhu, “Little sister, you have a brother who’s going to make sure you’re safe now.” Yu Zhu beamed and took his hand. Once outside of the palanquin, she transformed from the hyper young girl to a regal princess. In her silver and blue finery, she held her head high and lightly began to climb the steps to the palace.
Xu Long Hui gave his hand to Hua Er who protested, “no, it is not prop–”
“Nonsense.” He said as he held out his hand, “Unless you need me to carry you off the palanquin like I carried you, all those months ago, when you were injured?”
Hua Er blushed and gave him her hand. Long Hui smiled and held it tightly. Hua Er’s blush deepened as she stepped out of the palanquin and saw that maids and eunuchs were staring at pair. She stepped away from him and hurried after her mistress.
Xu Long Hui at long last entered the throne room. The Emperor sat on the white dragon throne in full ceremonial robes of gold and black. He beckoned his son to join him on the dais.
With Xu Long Hui by his side, the Emperor stood and addressed his ministers, “At long last, I have found the son that I thought lost a long time ago. Since the siege, everyone thought that Crown Prince Han Qin was dead. But he has come back, carrying with him the Dragon Seal. He came to me knowing details of the dead Crown Prince’s life that only the Crown Prince would know. He has the birthmark only the dead Crown Prince has. And most importantly,” The emperor paused and put an arm around his son, “He resembles my beloved Empress Xi Yang Yue. He will be a Crown Prince again. Is there anyone who objects?” No one in the room made a sound at the challenge. Everyone knew of the Emperor’s infamous temper.
The ministers all bowed, “Long live the Emperor! Long Live the Crown Prince!” Outside, the Eunuchs announced the expected news to everyone and there was a roar of approval heard for miles as people celebrated the return of their lost prince.
After the banquet.
The moon shone brightly as Yu Zhu and Hua Er traveled back to the Princess’s Pavilion. Hua Er yawned, exhausted by the preparations and the banquet, but Yu Zhu was wide awake. She wanted to see her brother.
She waited until Hua Er blew out the lights to her room and making sure that her maids were asleep before she got up again. Yu Zhu quietly slipped into her clothes, grabbed her gift for her new brother, and snuck out the window. The shortcuts within the inner palace were familiar to her as she evaded the watchmen and guards, heading to the Crown Prince Pavilion.
Yu Zhu eagerly crept towards Xu Long Hui’s sleeping quarters and frowned. There were no guards or maids standing in attendance. She looked around, the entire sleeping quarters were entirely empty. My brother is really nice Yu Zhu thought as she knocked quietly on the gilded red doors, he gave all the maids and soldiers a night off.
“Long Hui Gege!” She knocked softly, “It’s Yu Zhu, I have a present for you.” She didn’t hear an answer. She turn around and listened. There were people talking in the garden. Yu Zhu felt a little mad, was her brother having a party without her?
Yu Zhu quietly made her way to the little garden. There. She spied two people, but couldn’t see who they were. The rocks were hiding them from her view. She scrambled onto a large rock, and was about to shout ‘surprise’ when she suddenly saw a sight that made her stifle a gasp.
Xu Long Hui was talking to a woman. No. not a woman. Yu Zhu realized, it was some strange creature that barely looked human. The creature was as pale as the moon with blood red lips, waist length silver hair, and red eyes. She was floating off the ground and translucent, as fragile looking as glass. There was a bright, glowing red string floating from her chest into Long Hui’s chest.
“You’ve done very well, Long Hui.” She purred as she stroked his face, “Aren’t you glad I allowed you to come back and become the crown prince? You would be, of course, if you could feel it.” Yu Zhu frowned, she didn’t understand what the demon said.
“I only want revenge against those who took my rightful place and made me a slave to your every whim, Demoness.” Long Hui spat out, his voice laden with hatred.
“Yes, I’ll just be happy for you.” the Demoness smiled viciously, “But do try and feel some happiness, you’re going to be Emperor soon and inherit the throne.”
“I can’t feel that” Long Hui said dully, “You made sure of it, didn’t you?”
“Well now, don’t be such as child,” the demon cooed, “the deal was that I live in your heart so you can be kept alive. There is no room for happiness or love now that I live there, isn’t it? And besides isn’t living with me much, much better?”
The demoness smiled triumphantly, making her even more eerie in the night, “And remember, if I die, I’ll make sure you follow me. So both of us will end up in that nothing void only demons go to when they die, and I’ll be torturing you. Forever.” She brought up her claws and caressed the red string that connected her to Xu Long Hui’s Heart. She tugged hard on the string and Xu Long Hui screamed in pain. “So don’t try cutting this string.” She laughed as he crumpled to the ground, gasping in pain. He was shaking as sweat poured down his head. He stood, gasping and wiped the blood from his lips and nose, “I understand.” He said as he glared at the demoness in cold distain.
Yu Zhu tried to climb down quietly and run away, but slipped on a pebble. The sound was deafening in the still night.
“Who’s here.” The Demoness Screeched, the tips of her talons grew long and sharp. “Show yourself or die!” Then, the Demoness and Xu Long Hui caught sight of Yu Zhu.
“You.” The Demoness said as she realized, “I know you. Little princess. I lost you once 10 years ago. How fortunate that you come so willingly now”
The Demoness turned to Xu Long Hui. “No One is here. Kill her. Bring me her flesh. Do it and I will free you from me.” She tugged lightly on the string and Xu Long Hui gasped in pain. “Do it!” She screamed. Xu Long Hui stood up and pulled out his sword. He turned to Yu Zhu, “I’m sorry. Little Sister.”