Beneath the stars, a towering creature appeared to glow with an ethereal light. It's pelt resembled the color pure jade, looking silky and smooth. If not for the large claws that glinted under the moonlight, or the sharp glint in its eyes, one would wish to take it as a pet.
The beast flicked its tail, circling around a silent figure. "Young master, tell old Jun what's got you so upset. Perhaps I can be of assistance." It laid beside her, nuzzling against her shoulder.
Gazing at the stars, Xie Ying Yue ran her hand across Jun's fur. She tried to quell the anxiety pressing against her chest, but couldn't. Growing up, her mischief had been confined to breaking into grandfather's study and stealing books, or blackmailing her brothers to spar.
This was the first time she had left home for days to do something so dangerous.
When she thought of her family agonizing over her, she felt a pinch in her heart. Da Ge  and Er Ge  had gone out with a group to search for her. They would be back in the morning and she didn't know how she would face them.
Cricket chirps echoed in the night, harmonious with the sound the running fountain. Despite the picture of calm, Xie Ying Yue clenched her eyes closed, grimacing.
Since her days as an infant, a fierce prickling attacked her skull at random times. Perhaps this was instinct at its peak. When she thought to trust, it told her otherwise. If she wanted to relax, it told her to keep vigilant. Experience had taught her that if she did not listen, she could only grieve afterward.
For the last half month, the sensation refused to cease, causing a constant wariness to loom over her head.
Though she wondered if it related to her inability to cultivate, she could never mention it to anyone, even old Jun. It wasn't because she didn't want to ask, but it was because whenever she tried, she could only mouth empty syllables.
"Although there is power in my veins, I am powerless to do anything. For years, this helplessness has plagued my every waking hour. If I got over it, it might be for the better." She smiled half heartedly.
Tilting its head, the beast gazed into the night. "So despite Young Master's guilt, Young Master will continue to do put herself into similar situations?" Old Jun sighed in its heart, fully understanding her thought process. The madame had seen this complex in the master; choosing to carry the weight of the world on a single pair of shoulders. She had scolded him for it then, and it had no doubt she would scold the Young Master now.
Xie Ying Yue hummed in assent, unaware of the comparison the beast had made. Rather, she focused on what had transpired and what was to come. The weight of that afternoon suffocated her. However, there was no other option she could allow herself to consider. Retaliate, or remain to be slaughtered were the only options the world could give her. She would not be sorry for choosing to fight, but she was sorry for having to torment her family with worry.
If she could protect this family of hers from the schemes of the court, that would be okay. If her hands could wield needles to cure grandmother, that would be okay. If she could tear out her skin and release the trembling energy imbued in her bones, that would be okay.
But reality faced her, and she was reliant on the shield her family held to protect her. When the time came that this house should fall in disarray, who could they count on to send coal in snowy weather?
Old Jun licked her face, sensing the unstable energy around her. Taking a deep breath, Xie Ying Yue settled her spirit. There was no use in getting upset. She could only say a prayer for the future grievances she would bring upon her loved ones.
"Old Jun," Her voice carried a hint of unspoken loneliness into the dark night. The beast bowed its head, knowing what she was about to ask. Its Young Master cleared her throat, eyes never leaving the bright crescent moon. "Will he ever come?"
In the beginning, the question had been "When will father come?" followed by a child's pout. Back then, the Young Master's curiosity could be satisfied with a vague promise of soon and a lick on the cheek. But time took hold, and the inquiries went from daily, to once in a fortnight, to once in a blue moon. The temperament of the little one changed, morphing into one closed off to all but herself. When old Jun had realized, the question she had once asked so enthusiastically became one saturated in acquiescence.
"Of course he will. He would never stay away if he could help it. He loves you too much." The beast licked her face, as it had done when she was a child.
Xie Ying Yue nodded, letting her eyes wander over the small and large stars above. Her fingers fiddled with the silver bracelet that hung on her wrist. She wondered if her parents were looking at the sky too.
Old Jun accompanied her until the roosters crowed and orange painted the sky, disappearing into a mist before another soul could see it.
 Da Ge: eldest male child of the family; eldest brother.
 Er Ge: second brother.