Shuren excused herself and grabbed my arm. "To Diyu with decorum! We must hurry! If my suspicions are correct, the battle outside is nothing more than a distraction. They will siege the castle and we must be prepared to defend ourselves. Do you remember how to shift?"

I nodded, the shock of everything chilling me to my bone, making every moment feel foreign to my body. It was as if all the current events happening were nothing more than a horrible nightmare that I struggled to awaken from.

"Did you learn how to breathe fire yet?"

"No."

Shuren cursed but shook it off quickly as the gears in her mind seemingly began to turn. "No matter, it won't come to that. Come with me." Instead of waiting for me to oblige, she pulled me behind her as we ran through an unfathomable amount of twists and turns. We finally stopped in the room I was in when I arrived at the palace, the room that belonged to Liwei's deceased mother, Empress Consort Cai Min.

Shuren's fingers ran up and down the side of the wardrobe, searching for something. Within moments, a large creaking sound resounded as the wardrobe shifted to the left to reveal a once-hidden, descending staircase. "This will take us to the tunnels and from there, there should be a boat waiting for us at the docks."

"Wait, we can't leave Liwei!"

"He'll catch up later. We have to go now!"

"But Shuren—" My words were caught off when I heard the cries of children echo through the palace.

"Mingxia! Mingxia, help us!"

As if Shuren knew what was on my mind, she grasped onto my hand tightly to root me to my current spot. "You mustn't! If they are doing this to lure you out, they're after you. We cannot give them the opportunity to take you away. If you're gone, then everything is ruined. Wuzhen is ruined."

"Mingxia!" a lone voice cried with such agony; my heart felt like it was shattering into a million pieces. It was that sound alone that was enough for me to make up my mind about what had to be done.

I yanked my arm from Shuren's grasp and mustered all the courage I could in my legs and ran towards the sound of the screaming wyrmlings. I'm sorry, Shuren. I can't just abandon them.

My dragon snarled and growled, fighting for dominance. Each shriek coaxed my dragon out of hiding, until all she could think of was the blood of her enemies splattering along the ground. The magic in my legs motivated me to push myself to run faster, I was no longer bound by my past, but rather the future, as power surged through my entire body.

I leapt through a window, shifting simultaneously, so that I was now standing before who I quickly identified as elemental mages. Smoke billowed from my mouth, as I bared my teeth threateningly at the mages. A pool of heat rested in the back of my mouth, fire was waiting in the wings, ready to incinerate my enemies in front of me.

A loud growl erupted in the air, and I immediately recognized its owner. Liwei knew I was outside, and he was far from happy. Any other time, I might not have risked his anger but there were young ones in danger. I couldn't turn a blind eye, they needed me now more than ever.

"So, this is the new Empress of Wuzhen. I have to say, I didn't expect you to be able to shift so easily. I was under the impression that you were raised by humans and knew nothing about our world," a deep voice remarked, proceeding by slow claps. The crowd of mages parted to reveal a bearded man with a glare sinister enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck.

Unlike his people who were dressed in a color indicative of the element they wielded; he was in a white robe with various Celtic symbols. Before he could continue, he was cut off by a sudden roar from Liwei. He lunged forward, jumping in front of me, forcing me back behind him. My dragon was unappreciative of his actions, she wanted to show that she could protect the wyrmlings on her own. But she knew that now was an extremely volatile moment and didn't want to do anything that would jeopardize Liwei's safety.

A Celestial Requiem (Book 1, The Secrets of Tarot series)Where stories live. Discover now