Shenwu reports to Yanlang that Tuoren appears to have a different strength than before. Yanlang can track Tuoren's location, though he himself remains hidden. Everything is going according to his plan. He had wanted the two underlings with Shenwu to be captured and sent to the palace.

Tuoren arrives in Jusenkai and heads straight for where Lifang is in the infirmary, Nasha following. No one can understand how someone who had been so steadfastly independent is now going so far as calling a bird and a panda his "aides." (It's practically an insult that he accepts animals more than his comrades in arms.) The gentle attitude he adopted around Lifang vanishes around the other Senkaijin. Lifang is puzzled that the surroundings seem so familiar, though he's never been to Jusenkai. Fengyu suggests it may be ancestral memory.

The sudden appearance of the panda startles the doctor's assistant, Jina, who is blind. Lifang boasts to the doctor that Tuoren's power fixed his broken rib--it had been hurting so much he couldn't move, until he took some of Tuoren's energy. Fengyu is shocked at hearing that they've been able to achieve a transfer already; not even Tuoren had believed that was what had happened, since he thought Lifang was fully human. Fengyu reveals that Lifang's mother was a Senkaijin, Reishia, who had worked with the doctor years ago.

He goes on to explain about the rei bracelets that the warriors wear. The stone in each one monitors its owner's life force and location. Reishia had left hers behind twenty years before when she went to Chijoukai to live, so they know exactly when she died. They hadn't been entirely positive that Lifang was her son, but the fact that he can exchange energy with Tuoren proves that he's part Senkaijin. Lifang is ecstatic that he now has a way to help Tuoren against the rebels. He asks what magic he might be able to use, but Fengyu says his mother only had the power to heal flowers and trees from disease. He's slightly disappointed, but at least he can feed Tuoren's magic with his energy, and he might have other latent talents that can be brought out with training.

Tuoren and Lifang leave to get some rest. Lifang notices that, while the people he had passed in the hallway when walking with Fengyu had greeted them with smiles, no one so much as looks at Tuoren. Outside, Lifang pauses to admire scented flower petals on the wind, but at an alert from Tuoren he catches a fan that had been thrown at him. That's how he meets up with Xionglin, who had been testing his reflexes. (Xionglin uses feminine speech.) He asks if Lifang remembers him.

Before he can bring the incident to mind, Hulei attacks him from behind, since he's still pissed at Lifang over what happened. Lifang finally recalls the encounter, but he doesn't understand why Hulei would be upset. In his quest to become a strong fighter, Lifang had challenged Hulei to a match, with the incentive that if he lost, he'd pay for the partners' meal (they had accidentally lost their money without realizing it). Hulei had won, but it ticked him off that Lifang had held back out of sympathy at noticing that his opponent's arm was hurting from a previous battle. He demands a rematch, but Tuoren insists that Lifang can't fight after just healing a broken rib, so he'll take his place--and Hulei knows he can't beat Tuoren. Xionglin tells them to postpone it until after they've finished off the rebel problem.

Xionglin offers to take Lifang to his place and lend him some clothes. Tuoren heads home. After he's gone, Lifang asks about it, and Xionglin replies that Tuoren has a house in the southern mountains where he lives alone. His mother died two years earlier. His Yanlang.

Xionglin lives along with a gaggle of sisters. They make clothing for a living. He explains that he turned out the way he is (very effeminate) because of growing up surrounded by so many girls. Meanwhile, Tuoren returns home to find that someone had been caring for his mother's flower in his absence. It turns out to be two young children, and when they see him they're surprised that he's not as frightening as their mother had led them to believe, though he's supposedly responsible for their father's death. They had come to his house without their mother's permission because they wanted to see the flower bloom.

Then their mother shows up and orders them away. She yells at Tuoren that he should never have come back. Her husband was killed because of his father. She says that she hopes the rebels hurry up and kill him, too. Lifang, having come from Xionglin's house, overhears. Tuoren tells him not to worry about it, because it's merely the truth. Back at the palace, a spell that Shenwu cast on one of the captured underlings is activated.

Lifang goes back to Xionglin's place that night, but he can't sleep, he keeps thinking about how everyone blames Tuoren for what Yanlang had done though none of it was his fault. Tuoren insists that he doesn't care what people think of him, but Lifang knows it must hurt. He's also distressed that Tuoren has returned to being distant. Xionglin chats with him and says that if Tuoren would ever smile at people, they wouldn't be so frightened of him. (Lifang: "What? He does smile." Xionglin: "No way!") He goes on to say that he thinks the pair's meeting was fated, that Tuoren needs Lifang because it gives him a place to feel safe. He thinks Lifang is the best aide Tuoren could have.

Tuoren is lost in memories of his childhood. His father only visited the house once a year, spending the rest of the time at the palace. His mother never went to see him there, because Yanlang had told her that if she did, he'd never meet with her again. She loved him so much that she took what little she could get. Then one day, when Tuoren was thirteen, Yanlang came and dragged him away to the palace, refusing to let his mother come along because she held no value. Tuoren tried to resist, but his magic was no match for his father's. Yanlang coldly told him that his mother had never loved him for himself, only as Yanlang's child--he was better off training to use his power than staying with such a woman. Afterward, his mother had killed herself. Now Tuoren fights the rebels for the sole purpose of one day defeating the father who betrayed him.

The emperor teases Fengyu about running around in his pajamas earlier that day when Lifang had arrived. The captain of the royal guard, Long, had told him about the incident, but he says not to scold Fengyu about it because it's all part of the charm that makes him so popular. Fengyu wonders why the emperor is awake so late at night, and he admits he couldn't sleep because of a sense that something is amiss. Long hears that one of the rebel prisoners suddenly started crying out, so he goes to see if it has anything to do with the emperor's premonition. When he checks on her, he realizes that Shenwu had cast some kind of hidden spell on her that she hadn't known about herself. He tries to exorcise the monster before it kills her, but he's too late. He kills the monster, the guards grim at the proof that Yanlang would use his own underlings in such a way, but misses the second spell that was masked by the more blatant one.

The next morning, Lifang discusses how strong Shenwu must be to have used such magic. Xionglin tells him it might be ancestral--sometimes powers skip many generations before showing up again. Lifang gets excited that the same could happen with him. Xionglin reminds him that attack magic isn't the only thing that will help Tuoren; strength of the heart is important as well. That's what the rebels have failed to comprehend. As they walk, they meet up with a bunch of people that Lifang befriended the previous day. Hulei compares his popularity to Fengyu, and Xionglin runs his mouth off about how cute Fengyu is when he lets his guard down...not realizing that Fengyu himself is standing on the other side of the doorway they're crossing. Then Hulei does the same thing in response, quoting Long's description of Fengyu as a small bird that draws one's attention, when Long is sitting against a tree right next to them.

The three men explain the setup of the royal guard and Upper and Lower Armies to Lifang. Tuoren is Lower Army because, despite his strength, he can't control his power. Long takes Lifang's hand and tells him he has warm ki, capable of warming others' cold hearts. (Then he admits he borrowed a bit of energy. Xionglin shouts at him, "You shouldn't do that! He's Tuoren's!") Long had admired Lifang's mother for her ability to make others happy. Lifang finally feels that he has a solid grasp on what he can do for Tuoren.

To the south, Tuoren's neighbor yells at her children not to go into the mountains as long as he's there. When someone tries to stick up for Tuoren, pointing out that he couldn't have prevented the death of the woman's husband because he had his hands full fighting for his own life, she snaps back that it only proves he never helps anyone but himself. Tuoren meets up with Fengyu, who's causing a soothing breeze on a nearby hill. Fengyu asks if he slept the previous night, and Tuoren admits that he hadn't, though his body rested. He muses that he used to have lots of sleepless nights, but it hasn't happened once since he joined up with Lifang. Fengyu points out that the civilians struggle just as much as the soldiers, bringing life back to the war-torn land, and what's changed about Tuoren is that he notices it now whereas before he would have brushed it off as irrelevant to him.

A young boy comes up and reports to Fengyu that he saw a black butterfly land on a chicken, and the chicken suddenly turned black and flew away. Fengyu knows that such a magic spell exists, though it's difficult to perform. It starts small, but increases in size and power as it sucks up more living things. At their hideout, the other rebels congratulate Shenwu on his skill. He gives the credit to Yanlang for drawing out his ancestral powers. Yanlang's goal with this strategy is to remind the citizens of Jusenkai that they should still fear the rebels. Fengyu and Long have the soldiers patrol the countryside looking for the black creature, hoping not to alarm people, but if they can't find it by nightfall they'll make a public announcement about it.

Lifang comes running up to help Tuoren search. Although his presence eases Tuoren's heart, he tells Lifang to stay away from him while they're in Jusenkai so that he won't be ostracized as well. Tuoren's eagle finds the black bird and leads them to where it's possessing a tree near Tuoren's house--where the two children snuck away to see the flower bloom. Tuoren orders Lifang to take the boy far away while he rescues the girl. When the mother shows up searching for them, Lifang gives the boy to her and goes back to help, assuring the mother that there's nothing to worry about, Tuoren will save her daughter. Tuoren could blast the tree to smithereens, but he's afraid of hurting the girl along with it. Lifang yells at him not to hesitate, to trust in his powers. No matter what the outcome, Lifang will stand by him and believe in him.

Tuoren demolishes the tree and rescues the girl, but the mother accuses him of drawing the calamity in the first place and getting her children involved. Then the children beg her not to be angry with him, because they don't think he's a bad person, and he put himself in danger for their sake. Hulei and Xionglin show up and congratulate Tuoren on defeating the black bird (though Hulei had wanted to do it himself). Tuoren protests that he couldn't have done it without the eagle and Lifang. Shenwu reports to Yanlang that Tuoren and a partner had finished off the spell, though he couldn't get a clear look at the partner--he didn't think it was the companion from before, because a human couldn't stand up to such powerful magic. Yanlang tells him not to underestimate humans, since even without magic they can injure Senkaijin.

Xionglin's sisters are disappointed when he tells them that Lifang will be staying with Tuoren from then on. (Xionglin: "He said, 'I want to be by his side.'" Sisters: "Oooh! I wish I were on the receiving end of that speech!" Xionglin: "I agree!" Sisters: "But you have Hulei.") While Lifang tends Tuoren's burns, he relates that his mother had only seemed happy when her flowers bloomed. When the petals fell, she became sad again, and nothing he said ever cheered her up. He hated being so helpless to do anything for her. He doesn't know whether he actually loved her--she was always extremely strict with him, comparing him to Yanlang, and never holding him. As soon as Lifang hears that, he pulls Tuoren into his arms, saying that he might not remember his mother's face but at least he can remember her holding him, and his father had done so as well. He knows he's no replacement, but for the moment he can be a mother for Tuoren. Tuoren realizes that what he's wanted all this time was for someone to believe in him, someone he could trust.

Nasha shows up the next morning to let the pair know that the emperor wants to see them that afternoon. They get to chatting, and Lifang finally reveals that the Senkaijin he's searching for is the man who killed his father. He wants to know what business his father had with the man, and why his father had to die. He had never been able to tell anyone before, but he feels better now that it's off his chest. Since he hasn't met up with the man anywhere in Jusenkai, he figures it must be one of the rebels. Tuoren is worried that Lifang won't be able to stand up to someone who uses magic attacks, but Lifang says he won't be able to accomplish anything if he gives up without trying.

* * *

On a clear spring day, soon after the death of the previous emperor's wife, the current emperor (the heir at the time) went for a walk on a western hill and felt a comforting breeze. He spotted a young boy who appeared to control the wind, but as soon as the boy noticed him the wind stopped and the boy ran away. The heir went to the hill every day after that. On the third day, the boy saw him lying with his eyes shut. Fearing that the heir was too quiet, the boy leaned in close to check for a heartbeat, and the heir grabbed him in his arms.

Terrified of such proximity to the heir, the boy admitted that his name was Fengyu and promised not to run away if the heir let go. He was only twelve years old--nearly thirteen--which the heir said was the perfect time to find a job. He invited Fengyu to come to the palace and study to be his right hand man. He knew the emperor would soon turn the position over, since he had become severely depressed after the death of his wife, who had been half of his soul. The heir loved Fengyu's magic wind, he had never felt anything so wonderful.

Fengyu turned down the offer, saying that such a position was beyond him. However, the heir refused to yield, swearing that even if Fengyu didn't come right away, the heir would keep returning to the hill until he agreed. (It took ten days...)

In the present, Fengyu comes upon the emperor and Long reminiscing. They joke that Fengyu is too good at what he does, he refuses to delegate tasks to others and wears himself out. The emperor says that Fengyu is the reason he's still at the palace. If it weren't for him, the emperor would abdicate. He gets Fengyu to promise to take care of himself to prevent such a thing. The emperor muses that, thinking back on their first meeting, Fengyu had captured half of his soul.

End Volume 3