Who you Were Always Meant to Be
As the primary receiver of Zuixian's herculean blow, Xiao Hu's face became a mess of blood and gore. But barely had she landed on the ground that the battered nose, bruises and broken bones, all regenerated — returning to their initial flawless state. Now, only the thick traces of blood stayed behind, acting as fresh reminders of the damages that Xiao Hu so easily healed from.
Faced with regeneration abilities that didn't lose to what he possessed in an aquatic environment, Zi Zuixian pulled in a deep breath — reassessing his opponent.
"How endearing. It's like the perfect picture of a devoted big brother's attempt at sheltering his little sister," while dragging herself off the ground, Xiao Hu said. Sent into disarray by Zuixian's blow, her long mint-colored hair covered half her face, preventing the onlookers from seeing the demented glint flashing in her eyes.
"Sister-in-law. More specifically, future sister-in-law." Undisturbed by Xiao Hu's words, Zuixian denied the allegations.
"Is that so? Are you sure you do not have some selfish motives? Something you kept hidden from even your sworn brother?"
"How do you know about my relationship with Qiu Chen?"
"The information isn't that hard to get. We know everything there is to about the Nameless Sword Mountain's key characters. For example, you, Zi Zuixian, are a semi-orphan. Your mother, Zi Huamei, is a notorious whore. So notorious that she not only cannot name your father but also refused to raise you so as to not diminish her sex appeal in the eyes of potential suitors.
Her big sister, Zi Yao, took it upon herself to raise you — and once she discovered your once-in-a-thousand years' talents, put the Zi clan's future on your shoulders.
But now, the Zi clan is gone. And you, Zuixian, have turned into a guest elder for the Nameless Sword Mountain. I wonder why. Is it just to assist your sworn brother? No, before meeting Qiu Chen, you'd already set your sights on the Nameless Sword Mountain. Why Zuixian? Be honest. What was it here that grabbed the attention of the ever-wandering Wine Eccentric?" Xiao Hu rhetorically asked, her eyes darting between Zuixian and Haoyue.
"What if I told you that I could predict the future, and knew that if I stayed here long enough, our paths would cross again?" Zuixian jested, but though his tone stayed calm and merry, violent and borderline murderous rays flashed in his eyes.
"I'd say that you're a lousy smooth talker. The Water Spiritual Root is pretty unusual for someone surnamed Zi. But not so much for..." Xiao Hu wouldn't have the time to finish her words. Zuixian broke into flying drops of liquor, racing towards Xiao before rematerializing above her. Undulating liquor coiled Zuixian's arms, turning them into long aquatic blades that hacked at Xiao Hu's face and neck.
The pipa sword demoness bent back, letting Zuixian's blow fly by her nose while sending a kick straight to his crotch.
Defying gravity, Zuixian raised his knees mid-air — setting them in Xiao Hu's path. Her kick crashed into Zuixian's knees, the impact sending both reeling back. Green and Evil Qi swirled around Xiao Hu's form, her pipa still played with a will of their own, and her sclera turned black.
"Seems like I struck a nerve. But I'm only getting started, because Zuixian, the thing I can stand the least, is people that try to mess up my face."
"It's for your own good. You have to let go of that obsession so you can finally become the person you were always meant to be." As the two went back and forth, Zuixian's gourd poured a seemingly infinite quantity of liquor onto the ground, increasing the "water" levels while the corrupt and demonic energies swirling around Xiao Hu intensified.
"'The person you were always meant to be,' like you? What was it that you were always meant to be? The eldest prince of the Dongli state? I'd say that being the White Immortal sect's prime disciple is a lot more impressive," Xiao Hu clapped back. Here, Zuixian's smile vanished. And at his back, Shui Haoyue's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Impossible!" Haoyue shook her head, rejecting Xiao Hu's words and seeking support from Zuixian. Alas, Zuixian stayed silent. That silence seemed to back Xiao Hu's words, tossing Haoyue into a world of confusion.
"It's not possible. Zuixian can't possibly be...my father's son!" Haoyue reiterated her thoughts. Not just due to the shock of being blood-related to Zuixian, but because basic logic made this possibility absurd. The reason was simple: Zuixian was too gifted.
While occasionally, some children would far exceed the cultivation talents of their parents and the limits of their bloodlines, this rarely was the case, and when such a scenario occurred, one could usually explain it by some kind of mutation or a unique fetal nurturing.
Chun Xu, for example, was born from mortal parents, but with a Void Spiritual Root that set her above traditional human limits.
Zuixian, however, possessed neither mutation nor unique fetal nurturing. Worse, Zi Huamei didn't follow traditional pregnancy norms and refused to provide Zuixian with the fetal resources that a Golden Core realm expert's child should have received.
Despite Huamei's best efforts to ruin her son's potential, Zi Zuixian was, without a shred of doubt, the most gifted scion in the history of the Zi clan. Not just the surviving Dongli Zi clan, even if one took the original bloodline in the Western Continent, Zi Yao estimated that pure talent-wise, Zuixian would still be the undisputed number one.
Had he been born in a mighty cultivator faction, his current achievements would have likely reached legendary status. For that reason, many believed that Zuixian was the bastard son of some unfathomable existence that played with Huamei's body, hopes and emotions — causing her to project her hatred for that man on Zuixian.
How could such a phenomenon be the son of a mere Shui Jiankang?
Likewise, Shui Jiankang loved his queen more than his life, and only accepted concubines due to the pressure of the royal family to produce princes. Had Haoyue and Haoyang been born a few decades ago, Jiankang would have likely resisted Heaven and Earth to stay loyal to his queen. How could such a man indulge in an affair with the Headmistress of the Albizia Court?
Haoyue couldn't believe it. Yet, though his gaze hardened at Xiao Hu, Zuixian didn't deny her words.
"It's not like I've been trying to hide it. I've only recently learned the truth, and it's such an inconvenient truth that I preferred keeping my mouth shut. I wish it was a lie, but it's not.
Haoyue...I am your big brother."