The sun blares down like a beast, its ferocious heat hissing against Han Fei's copper skin. He grips a metal sword that wooshes through the air with his effortless movements. He swipes up, down, and sideways. Sometimes on his feet. Other times on his knees. Sweat drips down his forehead, but he doesn't wipe it away until his drills are over.
Soldier's watch him from the shade of the stone that circles around the rectangular training grounds. Some taking notes with their eyes, others cheering when he completes a couple of slashes with expert speed. He conducts the final move on his knees slashing the blade as if to make an x in the air.
"That's our general!" One of the soldiers yells in admiration. It had been five years since lord Feng Ren Xui had discovered him in the Estierian markets at the fighting rink. Later did he know that he would impress the man and would be offered a position as a soldier in his manor. Since stepping through the doors, it only took 3 years for Feng to gift him the position of General amongst the soldiers. Apart from gaining the lord's favouritism, he had seemed to also gain a loyal following amongst the soldiers he commanded.
Taking in a long breath, he rose slowly before placing his sword back in its sheath. The spectators took this as a sign to finally enter, knowing full well that he didn't like to be disturbed until he was done. He put on a bright smile at the sight of them all pushing and shoving each other to get there first. "Shen Rao. Did you take notes of how I held the blade?"
"Yes, my general," he replied, one amongst the fourteen soldiers that crowded around him.
"Good." He nodded. "You grip the hilt of your sword too strong and that hinders your speed with the sword."
"Make sure to focus on that in your practices."
"I will be sure to." He bows his head and holds a hand to his heart. "You have my word."
Han Fei grips his shoulders and forces him to rise. He may be their general but he was no different from them. Born on the same streets as them. Just a commoner with no nobility. He would not expect them to treat him higher than as equals.
"There is no need to bow to me when Lord Feng Ren Xui isn't in our presence."
"Oh, I know what you said." He smirks, dimples lining his cheeks. "It is by choice, of course."
Han Fei shakes his head at his stubbornness. Since taking up the general position he had made Shen Rao his second in command. He took his training just as seriously and also held protecting the lord as the highest priority. If anything was to arise and he had to leave his soldiers in the hands of a second; he could always count on him.
His eyes unintentionally rise towards the hallway that connected to the training grounds. He captures the familiarity of golden hair cropped at the shoulders. From this distance, you could only make out small figures of people crossing, so he couldn't be sure if his vision was accurate. The hallway led first to the great hall, then Feng Ren Xui's personal study and living quarters.
Could that have possibly been Father? The only reason that he would be visiting the manor was either to visit him or to see the lord personally. Considering he had passed the training grounds with determined steps only ruled one outcome.
"You'll have to excuse me." He told the soldiers, his gaze locked on the hall. He swerved around them before they could respond and first decided to make his way to the Lord's study. It was always peaceful walking through the hall as it was painted in gold and decorated in portraits. It had been three months after his wife had died and he was still in search of his daughter. Lord Feng had told him that it had always been an idea of Zye Mai's to add colour to the bland white of the halls and to hang portraits of their family. He had voiced his regret that he hadn't organized it sooner when he still had his family.
'Find me an artist. One that can paint a picture with my words alone.' He had ordered of Han Fei and they soon found one in the home of his mother. His mother had come to the manor to translate in Hyeiti as the lord described his wife and daughter in vivid detail.
He had cried upon seeing it in its completion. The lord had always looked haggard and delved into his work upon experiencing the tragedy. But he had never cried. Not until that moment.
Han Fei stopped in the hall to gaze upon the portrait in front of him. "Tsu-Ming Xui." He said it slowly, as if for the first time, almost in a whisper. The daughter of lord Feng Ren Xui. He kept staring at the wide smile and the bright sparkle that the painter had captured in her cloudy grey eyes. The resemblance to her mother was clear. He pondered on how she would have felt being put in a situation like that at the age of five. He wondered where the trouble maker, as Lord Feng described her, was, and if there was a chance she was even still alive.
The search for her had not seized even after twelve years. He hoped that there would be signs of her soon so that her father might finally be able to rest and the tiredness in his heart that he tried so very hard to hide could come to an end.