The raging waterfall was not enough to drown out Yang Guo's thoughts.
"I must tell Uncle Guo," Yang Guo whispered. "I must make this right, but how? How can I ruin two lives in place of my own?" He began to recall. It was little Xiang's birthday -- her eighteenth. He had been lavish in his celebration, gathering the best heroes in all of Jiangnan to clear the city of any Mongolian presence. The outskirts of Xiang Yang were piled with the bodies of the fallen, but inside the city, the only sounds that could be heard were the clashing cymbals of the parades, and the sharp crack of the firecrackers announcing the coming womanhood of the Guo's youngest flower.
The inn was filled with Guo Xiang's closest family and friends, come far and wide to celebrate her big day. There was Reverd Yideng and Auntie Guo, engaged in deep conversation; Zhou Botong, the old urchin, was spinning a dozen plates on his fingers and toes as Xiao Long Nu laughed and clapped happily; even her estranged grandfather, Huang Yaoshi, played a chirping melody on his jade flute. His deep and profound internal energy propelled his play, filling the entire city with the happy tune.
Only Guo Fu could be unhappy on a day like this.
"Stupid girl. All this, and she has the gall to keep us waiting?" she grumbled, shoving the cakes the servant had placed before her to the floor. "I'll just have to drag her down here myself, even if I have to knock her unconscious."
A smile played at the corners of her lips.
Guo Fu stomped up the stairs of the inn, leaving behind a trail of dusty splinters as she went. As she approached, Guo Fu could hear the faint cries of her sister. "No, Brother....it's not....I could never...Sister loves....so much..."
Guo Fu sped up her pace. Could it be that Xiang Er was up to something improper? "What Sister is she talking about anyways? Me? No, she also calls that Xiao Long Nu sister, because of her damned 'big brother' Yang Guo. I swear it, sometimes I believe that Xiang Er treats her better than she does me.
"Well, you're going to get it, little girl. Oh, you're going to get it. I can promise you tha --- aggghhh..." Guo Fu's rants turned to an intelligible moan, words failing to describe the hell before her. Her beloved husband, Yelu Qi, stared at her glassy eyed, his head cocked at an impossible angle. A crooked smile played on his lips. He seemed almost to be looking curiously at her, if not for the fact that his chin was aligned with his right shoulder. Yelu Qi's chest was collapsed, crushed by an incredible force. His ribs were shattered, organs were rendered useless. His bleeding arm was draped across a still form on the bed, naked save a few scraps of silk still clinging to the body.
As Guo Fu crept closer, she saw that the left side of his face was a pulpy mess. the eye burst, jaw smashed -- the awkward grin was a grimace of pain. He was beyond saving. She began beating on his still form with her fists: anger and pain and fear her fuel, her loneliness the reason. Even as she embraced his body through her sobs, she saw the body on the bed, a pool of blood spreading slowly spreading along its frame. With trembling fingers, she traced the pattern back to its source -- an ugly dagger rammed in Guo Xiang's right side with lethal force.
It was then that Guo Fu heard a noise behind her. She whirled in time to see a glimpse of a sleeve before a raging wind knocked her back against a beam of the bed. In her fading consciousness, Guo Fu could only mutter two words, over and over:
Yang Guo, Yang Guo...