2 The Eyes of Her Father
Upon feeling the chilling wind pass by her, tugging and yanking at her hair, Yuxi opened her eyes in confusion. She had expected to see the familiar darkness of her old, dirty, and creaky room.
Instead, she was faced with the fancy settings of the Imperial Palace. Floors lined with high quality carpets, walls decorated with exquisite gold borders, pillars of red with dragon statues slithering to the top, and rows upon rows of ministers and scholars, this was the intimidating throne room.
"Zhao Yuxi, you're kneeling before the Great Emperor of Houling and Her Majesty, the Empress of Houling." The Eunuch loudly announced.
Sitting on top of a staircase was two thrones made of pure gold. One had the head of the dragon whereas the other had the wings of a phoenix.
"You are summoned to select a new guardian after the passing of Chen Xiyue and General Zhao Yulong." The Eunuch continued off of his scroll, his voice loud and clear.
Yuxi breathed out in shock. Select a new guardian? That was impossible...Her eldest Uncle was her appointed guardian.
Staring down at the floor, she noticed her incredibly tiny hands. They weren't the hands of a woman, instead, it was the plump hands of a child.
Touching her round and rosy cheeks stained with tears, Yuxi was shocked to feel actual flesh and not the bones of starvation.
"Following the laws of abandoned children, your guardianship will fall onto the most eligible person from her father's family." The Eunuch continued, not once noticing the child's frigid state.
"Please step forward, Zhao Yueluo, the eldest brother of Zhao Yulong." At the sound of his familiar name, Yuxi's body went into shock.
She was so paralyzed with fear, her hands began to shake. Her eyes darted around the room.
Her eldest Uncle stepped forward, a gentle smile on his face. He cupped his fists, got onto the floor, and bowed deeply before the Emperor.
"I thank his Highness and her Majesty for the opportunity to become Yuxi's guardian. I will raise and care for the child as if she was my own." Zhao Yueluo was very good at playing the role of a filial and doting uncle.
He was known for his gentle demeanor and care-free smile. He was rumored to have been a doting father who didn't mind his lack of heirs. Always fulfilling his duties as a father, properly loving his wife, and spoiling his children rotten, there wasn't a flaw in the way he ran his family.
But this attitude was only for his family. That love and adoration wasn't for the child of the brother he greatly despised.
Yueluo inwardly sneered at the girl. If it wasn't for her enormous inheritance, he wouldn't have spared her a second glance.
He knew he couldn't show his true intentions. Instead, he opted to play the role of a loving uncle.
"Come with me, Little Yuxi. Eldest Uncle will take care of you." Zhao Yueluo turned towards Yuxi and offered her a hand.
Yuxi lifted her frightened head, her eyes wide with fear and panic. Yueluo tried hard to not frown at her state.
Perhaps it was because of the biting cold of the winter morning, or it was because she had cried so much, but her face was deathly pale. It looked as if she knew the truth of what truly happened to her parents.
"My little Yuxi, are you alright?" He gently asked with creased brows. His face was filled with sincerity and concern, and if Yuxi was as naive as she used to be, she would've fallen for the same trick.
Biting her bottom lips, Yuxi finally understood her situation. She had traveled back in time to the exact day her eldest Uncle was given guardianship to her.
Though this realization was greatly welcomed, Yuxi felt incredibly confused. How was this miracle even possible? Was it because she died the same exact time of her birth or was it because the Gods above took pity on the poor girl?
"No…" Yuxi breathed out, her voice tiny and broken. The sound of her own voice shocked Yuxi.
She was used to her old, hoarse, and squeaky voice that came from the years of abuse, neglect, and throat stomping. From being a child, her voice was still soft and mellow, like the spring breeze on a refreshing day.
"Yuxi, what happened? You're shivering, and your face is so sickly pale." The eldest Uncle expressed his concern, walking closer to the child.
He was surprised when she jerked at his steps and scooted backwards. Her eyes were so wide, so frantic, they resembled a lost bunny.
"I-I don't want you as my guardian…" Yuxi trailed off at the sight of his glowering eyes. She gulped in fear, but the Eunuch clearly heard her.
"You're rejecting your guardian?" The Eunuch repeated her statement, taking into consideration everything she was saying.
"Yes, I am." Yuxi's determined voice and eyes shocked the Eunuch and her eldest Uncle.
The Eunuch nervously glanced at the Emperor whose gaze never faltered from the child. His face was neutral and nonchalant, but there was a calamity within his eyes. To many of the court ministers and scholars, the adorable child had the face of her mother, the famed Beauty of Houling.
But to the observant Emperor, he saw his best friend, Zhao Yulong. The child may have Chen Xiyue's face, but she had the eyes of her father.
"Your Majesty, is this allowed?" The Eunuch whispered, watching the conflict before him.
The Emperor tilted his head to his advisor who immediately spoke for him. "Indeed, it is allowed, but another guardian must step forward. That person must be equally or have more capabilities than Zhao Yueluo. So far, there is only one man in this room with the qualifications."
At the reassurance, the Eunuch immediately cleared his throat.
"Zhao Yuxi, you are permitted the chance to choose a new guardian. But he or she must be more qualified than Zhao Yueluo. You are welcomed to choose amongst your relatives, but they must meet the requirements."
Yuxi observed her relatives. There was only one person that came from her mother's side of the family, whereas the rest of the people present were all of her father's family.
Zhao Yulong's brothers were all present. Each had hidden motives for Yuxi, but they were tied together by their hidden greed.
Yuxi felt her shoulders sat and her spirits drop. Was her fate going to repeat regardless of the uncle she chose? Was there truly no one that loved her for whom she was?