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71 New Name. New Beginnings.



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Everything was hot.

The basking sunshine was in her bones, heat radiating outwards into the bright day. Le-anne felt like a brick that was being scorched red in the oven. Coughing and wheezing shook her aching body leaving a trail of sweat. She was burning; her cheeks flushed while the rest of her skin glistened a deeper shade of rufescent.

"Leave her to die under the sun, let's see if her dancing will save her." One Lady of Art laughed.

They had taken good care of her on their journey to YiYuan but once out of the prying eyes of the Generals their true colors showed. The delinquent women dragged her out of bed, where she was admitted for treatment in one of YiYuan's exclusive chambers. Inconsiderate about her situation, they dumped her outside, on top of concrete that sorely impaled her body.

"Not even Grand Consort Shu will save her." The other scorned.

"Quick, bring the bird soup for her."

"Is our sick sister hungry?"

Through the haziness of her swollen eyes, Le-anne saw a girl standing above her.

"Forgive us Li Lian. These servants survive in the palace by following orders."

Senior Lady of Art's orders, of course. The wicked woman did not learn anything from her cold slaps.

"Help her up so she can have her delicious lunch."

Le-anne was harshly pulled up and a pair of hands girded her from falling. They forced her mouth to open by shoving the bowl of soup on her lips.

"Drink it, you wretched girl!" They press-ganged the soup into her mouth.

She choked and compulsively swallowed the soup to breathe. Tears started to trickle down her eyes as reflex and she painfully croaked on the soup that kept coming and coming. What made it better was that it tasted good. A sweet poison to her body.

Growing up, she had always been fed any food except anything that possessed wings. When she had rebelliously ignored this and had chicken for a meal, she suffered from a fever that night. Because Grand Consort Shu was not aware about this from the beginning, she fed her chicken soup when she was barely conscious. Ongoing fevers then delayed her healing process.

There are many things that Le-anne detested in her life. And being helpless and sick to defend herself was one of them. She'd rather have those vile women kill her instead.

"Someone is coming! Quick, let's go." They dropped her and a sharp pain shot through her head when she hit the ground. The Ladies of Art scampered away, leaving her abandoned.

"Aaah!" She winced in pain and rolled around the ground. More tears smeared her cheeks. The past month had been a lot. Why was she here? And for what reason did she need to be empress? She was regretting her decisions, and contemplenting  a possible way out.

Le-anne heard heavy steps hurry towards her.

"Little Fox, what is the matter?" Big hands held her up and desperately shook her body. "What did they do to you?"

Her slow fading heartbeat began to thud vigorously in her chest―a reaction she was not accustomed to. She started to feel deja vu wash her mind.

It had been years since someone saved her from anything. Le-anne was a person who survived by relying on herself and suddenly fate had someone that she should be contingent to.

"Grand General," she muttered knowingly, the reminiscent tears dribbling. Her eyes opened to have a glimpse of him but she couldn't see in the mess she was in, which did not matter. She could recognise that voice from anyway, and the scent that teased her nostrils.

His body blocked the sun from tormenting her, a relief to her sweating self.

"Yes it's me," he reassured her.

Though she already aware that it was him, she fisted a chunk of his robes. The familiarity that came with the fact that she kind of knew him, comforted her. She was a little bit safe in his presence.

A little bit.

"Don't worry. They won't hurt you anymore. Not if I'm around." He wiped her tears using his thumb. This act made her feel like breaking down but she couldn't. It would be embarrassing to be weak before the almighty general. She wanted him to perceive her as a strong and brave woman who was independent.

He took her into his arms and stood to take her away.

"What are you waiting for? Find those idiots and beat them hard," he instructed whoever he came with.

"Yes, Grand General!" Feet hurriedly treaded to catch the escaping bullies.

A cough seized her chest and she wheezed as if a frog was caught in her throat. Le-anne faintly held her throat, feeling sorry for being disgusting in his arms. She kept swallowing, but her throat kept clenching.

"Does it hurt?" His head cocked down, gazing at her.

She slightly nodded.

Yes, she felt heavy. The fever was burning her, body and spirit.

"Don't worry. You are Grand Consort Shu's favorite, I will take care of you." He placed a light kiss on her forehead. It was a gesture to reinforce that he meant it. "It will soon not hurt anymore."

She again nodded and closed her eyes. His body was a warm cocoon, so she could as well rest.

"Stay with me," he gently shook her but it was impossible. She was tired and exhausted.

"You never told me your name." He posed this with intent to keep her mind busy, and have her conscious for as long as possible.

Her name? What was her name?

"El... Elo..." she began.


No. Her name was not Elora.

"Your name is no longer Elora. Remember that you are no longer her child and if you see her in the street, look the other side."

She muffled because of the words that were repeated to her over the years.

"Le-an..." She tried to tell him.

"Princess Le-anne? You are not a princess. You are a nameless bastard child."

Then who was she?

They all did not want her. She was a discard, a nameless bastard, a reject. She had no place of belonging, with no one to care for her. Everyone was busy achieving their own goals, leaving no one to love her. She was all alone. Unwanted.

"Li Lian." she finally responded.

From here onwards she would no longer be someone they expected her to be and act how they expected her to. She was going to live by her own rules, and to her own liking. Life was too short to live two dreams; someone else's and her own.

"Lian for lotus flower?" She felt him stiffen from beneath her. He slowly breathed out, his voice coated with pain. "Someone special to me reminded me of lotus flowers and you look like her."

How was it possible that his special someone would look like her? Le-anne clearly remembered him calling her ugly the first time he saw her.

But his current confession was the most honest than the lies he normally spouted, and she could vouch for it by evidence of the emotion in his voice. Grand General was not an emotional person yet he was opening up to her as if they were friends.

"Wei Li Lian is a beautiful name," he finished silently.

She didn't tell him her clan name. So he already knew her name and was testing if she would lie to him?

She vaguely smiled and there, she gave in to unconsciousness. She knew that with him she was not entirely safe, but chose to trust that he would take care of her like he said he would.