Chapter 87: Xu Wu
Xu Min opened his eyes. He was filled with disbelief. What he was looking at was a sight he could never forget. Right above him was a shabby ceiling which he could instantly remember. It was a ceiling that he had seen for many years of his life. He turned to his side with a trembling body; he saw t his beloved sister, resting in sweet, deep sleep. The sun was about to rise in the sky, and it was already painted purple. The moment he opened his eyes a tranquility flooded over him.
It was all just a dream! Xu Min thought to himself, relieved. Big sis is still alive! What is there to fear?
Deep within, he knew that this was a lie. However, seeing the most important person in his life still alive was enough for him to be elated. Jumping up from the bed, he went to the smoldering fireplace, which he knew his sister had woken up multiple times during the night to keep alive. He threw some branches into it before he found a few cups of rice and started making congee.
It did not take long before the scent of food was filling the entire shed. This aroma spurred his sister awake; her eyes bewildered, and her hair messy as she looked on in surprise. Her younger brother was not sound asleep as he would usually be by now. Instead, he was standing at the fireplace cooking congee, a job which usually belonged to her.
"Little Min, why are you awake this early today?" she asked as she rubbed her eyes and slowly folded the wrinkles on her clothes. It was in the middle of winter. They needed to sleep in their clothes if they wished not to freeze to death. They only had two sets of clothes, but to Xu Min, his sister who was standing right in front of him was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. She was kind and loving; she made Xu Min experience the feeling of having a family again.
"I couldn't sleep," Xu Min said. He shrugged his shoulders and enjoyed every moment with his sister. His wounded heart slowly was being healed, and his consciousness more and more was forgetting the truth about what had happened before. The longer he was in this world, the more real it seemed and the happier he became.
"The sun is up. It's time for you to go to the training, and I need to go to work," the older sister tenderly said as she caressed Xu Min’s hair. "Mhm, I'll make sure to become a guard so that I can take care of us," Xu Min said. He had swallowed the last bit of congee before he rushed out the door towards the training grounds.
"Little Min!" a voice called out. Xu Min surprised, turned around only to see the Young Master rushing towards him with a smile on his face and his hand waving to him. Xu Min was shocked seeing this Young Master act so friendly towards him.
He was at a complete loss for words. When the Young Master reached him, he slung his arm around Xu Min’s shoulder and started laughing, "Even the genius Little Min is a little late today!" He said with a hearty laughter, "it does not happen often, but it does at times. I am quite amazed by you!"
"Good morning, Young Master," Xu Min said tentatively. He was not sure how to act, but his words made the young master seem somewhat apprehensive, "I told you to use my name so many times, but you always refuse! Aren't we good brothers? You are my best friend! One day, you will be the overseer of all the Zhong family compound and travel with me when we leave this small valley to do business! If you are not my brother, then what are you?!"
The emotional outburst shocked Xu Min even more than when he had seen his sister come back to life. Although that was a shock, it was something he had wished for every single day of his life. However, seeing the Young Master treating him like a brother was something he had never experienced before. He never thought this was possible!
Although things were different, the feeling of comfort spread through Xu Min's entire body. He laughed and joked with the Young Master as the two of them rushed to the training grounds together.
Every one of the younger generation of the Zhong family or other noteworthy families within the city were incredibly polite to both Xu Min and the Young Master. They treated the two as one. The ones who usually bullied him and beat him up were now polite and gentle towards him. Xu Min was on cloud nine. This was the childhood he had always wanted.
"Showing up late! Three laps around the training ground with weights!" A voice suddenly boomed through the childish chatter. Every child heaved a heavy sigh since they forgot they were late. Now Overseer Tian had reminded them about it, and they knew that they had no other option than to comply.
Picking up the weights, the children were all chatting together as they started running around the training ground. This was by no means a hard feat; Xu Min had done the same thing thousands of times on his own. In this alternative reality, his body was as sturdy as it had been when he was young.
If things are this good, I cannot help but wonder why my sister and I still live within that shabby shed. We are well-liked and have friends. I cannot imagine my sister not being liked by someone, so why such a bad place?
The moment Xu Min thought this, the Young Master moved up by his side. His breathing was a little more ragged than Xu Min's but not by a lot. He looked at him with really friendly eyes, eyes which seemed never to have held any malice.
"How can you be this fierce in the mornings?" he complained under his breath as they ran, "I get to sleep under soft pillows and blankets while you live in your run-down shed. Even then, still I cannot keep up with you. Imagine if you accepted my offer to move to a better location! If you did, you would be even more monstrous and leave us all in the dust!"
Xu Min instantly got an answer to his questions. Deep inside, his soul shuddered. Although he was enjoying this world, it was simply far too different. The young master was a menacing and calculating young man who was overwhelmed by jealousy. He would do anything to become the strongest rather than someone who easily succumbed to others.
While this world was enjoyable and comfortable, small changes like these made it hard for Xu Min to fully devote himself to the fantasy world. This person who tried to become his friend had once killed his dear sister! Was this a feud easily forgotten?
Seeing the mixed expressions in Xu Min's eyes, the Young Master smiled meekly, "Don't worry," he said, "I won't force you to leave that shed. You can keep living there for as long as you wish."
It was clear that he had misunderstood these emotions, but Xu Min did not mind. He would do his best to stay within this world since it meant that he could once more be together with his sister. To do this, it also included becoming a friend of the Young Master.
“Even if this is all entirely fake, I am happy,” Xu Min thought to himself. Suddenly a calm enveloped his entire body. A smile appeared on his face. He looked at the Young Master, "Are you sure that you want to help a mere slave like me?" He asked, testing this Young Master in front of him. However, the words clearly hurt the young boy; his face turned indignant. Quickly Xu Min laughed and said, "Sorry, I could not resist. Fine. Since you want to help me as much as you do, I will not be impolite and keep rejecting it. Please prepare a better place for my sister and me. I will make sure always to be behind your back and protect you from the dangers of this world! We will walk the earth as brothers!"
Every word was spoken while the two were running around the training ground. Both Xu Min and the Young Master were young children. However, Xu Min had already given up his previous life in his mind. He was willing to live in this dream world of the Blood Pagoda for the rest of his life. To spend time with his sister, he was willing to become the bodyguard of his mortal enemy.
The words caused genuine happiness to appear on the face of the Young Master. He almost started jumping in excitement.
"To see such excitement just running laps! It seems you have a lot of energy today, so run another two laps!" A voice came booming down. Overseer Tian had been observing them. He was an overwhelming expert; his senses were sharpened, so, of course, he had heard the words exchanged between these two children. A smile appeared on his face as he administered the extra two laps.
"Good for you, kid. Finally, you accept help," he mumbled to himself, clearly happy with Xu Min’s decision.
The Young Master was not just worded. As soon as the training had finished, he went directly to his father, taking Xu Min in tow.
"Father!" He called out. His voice was unable to hide the excitement within. The moment Xu Min was face to face with his most hated enemy, Lord Zhong, he was at a loss for what to do. This person was, much like the Young Master, incredibly friendly and caring towards him. Xu Min had no other option than to swallow his hate and desire to kill.
"My dear son," Lord Zhong was surprised to see his son appear with Xu Min in tow, "what can I do for you? Did I raise you to become so rash?"
"Father, Xu Min has accepted my brotherhood. I wish to bestow upon him a better house than the shed he and his sister are living in right now." The Young Master was not masking his words and said everything straightforwardly. At first, Xu Min was worried. Who would want their noble sons to become sworn brothers with a slave? The moment the words left the Young Master's mouth, Lord Zhong’s face turned excited; he was clearly pleased.
"To have such a talented martial brother, who would not be excited!" Lord Zhong exclaimed. His words were countering Xu Min's doubt once more.
"Well, this surely calls for a celebration! My son has found himself a martial brother; I need to give you a gift as well!"
Calling out loudly, the Zhong Family Leader summoned a few servants and issued a few orders.
"Let Xu Min and his sister move into the Magnolia Garden. Let his sister Xu Wu and Xu Min be given freedom. Xu Min will in the future become the most trusted aide of my son, so how can he possibly be a slave any further?"
The order was passed down. The present that Lord Zhong gave him was a small piece of land so that he would have his income in the future alongside two sets of clothes, one set for him and one set for his sister.
The two of them moved into the Magnolia Garden, a small place within the Zhong family compound close to the Jadefire Mansion, belonging to the Young Master.
The Magnolia Garden was not a large building, but it was luxurious. Compared to the shed Xu Min and Xu Wu came from, it was as different as the heavens and earth.
Sighing and closing his eyes for a moment, Xu Min saw the pictures of Cao Cao, Ye Ling, and Meilin flash before eyes. Pain enveloped his heart. He was torn. When he opened his eyes, he saw his older sister standing in front of him, and it was once more impossible for him to leave this tempting, surreal world.