“Mr Ye Lang, looks like your military skills aren’t bad at all,” Athena was impressed. She was always proud of her intellect but right now she’d realised how dumb she was to fall into their enemy’s trap.
However, she did not dwell upon the matter. It was very normal. There was a well-respected wise strategist within the camps of the enemy and she knew this person’s skills far exceeded hers.
“Military? I don’t do military. Aren’t you all just playing some sand game?” Ye Lang shook his head.
Game? You think we’re playing a game? This isn’t a game, this is war!
“Yeah, it’s just a game,” Athena’s expression returned to normal. She smiled at Ye Lang.
“Why do I feel like you’re faking your smile? Maybe it’s because you’re a fox…”
“...” Athena was speechless.
“Fox, how many tails do you have?” Ye Lang changed the topic suddenly, already losing interest in the ‘sand game’.
“?? Tail? Just one, of course! Everyone in the fox tribe is the same, why would we have more than one?” Not just Athena, the rest thought it was an odd question too. Why would he think she had more than one tail?
“All the same? Oh, that would mean there’s no such thing as the Kumiho, the nine-tailed fox… I wanted to meet Daji…” Ye Lang remarked wistfully. He was very interested in meeting the legendary Daji.
[Note: Daji was a beauty from ancient China- King Zhou of Shang’s favourite consort, often portrayed as a malevolent fox spirit]
“Nine tails? Daji?” Most of them didn’t understand Ye Lang, especially not Athena. She had not heard of this human.
“One tail’s pretty cute too. Tigress, let’s go for a walk!” said Ye Lang as he walked out. He did not drag her because he assumed she would tag along.
“Go, follow him,” Athena said to Tai Ya, “don’t talk too much, you just have to watch him. Pretend you’re his servant, you know how to do that.”
“Uh…” Tai Ya was reluctant, her subordinates did not agree either.
“This is for the greater good. You only have to do the little things. If he has any extreme requests, knock him out and lock him up. Never let him escape,” said Athena. She was not cruel enough to force Tai Ya into this.
This was why foxes, who were naturally smarter than the rest of the tribes, relied on the tigers --- they were not cruel enough sometimes.
A human strategist would’ve told Tai Ya to fulfil her duties no matter what, even if she had to sacrifice everything to complete the mission.
“Athena, now can you explain who that human is?” Thomas asked after Tai Ya left.
“I don’t know either,” answered Athena. Everyone was speechless, they didn’t expect her to not know!
“You don’t? If you don’t, why do you think he’s important?”
“I don’t know who the human is but I know the Tai Ya he is talking about,” Athena smiled. There was the cunning of a fox peeking through her smile.
“Tai Ya? Wasn’t THAT Tai Ya?”
“Not her. He’s talking about Tai Ya, our friend is Taeya,” Athena said, tracing the different Chinese characters on the sand table.
[Note: Tiger at the sand table = Taeya vs Tigress = Tai Ya; I’m using different spelling so we don’t get mixed up]
So Ye Lang had made a mistake. He was talking about Tigress, Tai Ya, while this lady was Taeya. Both names were pronounced exactly the same in Chinese, and not only did they have similar names, but they also had similar histories too. Both were once kidnapped by humans and involved in the slave trade.
According to the rumours, Taeya was kidnapped when she was very young. She was not as lucky as Tigress. Her owner treated her like an object. If it weren’t for the fact that she was young and her owner wasn’t a paedophile, she would have suffered many more traumatic incidences.
As she got older, she finally found an opportunity to escape. However, her body was branded and there was a seal on her that would never be unlocked or removed.
With the seal, Taeya was a weak girl all her life. She had no douqi, no magical abilities or any self-defence abilities, only able to rely on others for protection.
This was why she could barely struggle when Ye Lang hugged her.
“Tai Ya? I might have seen this name somewhere but I can’t remember…” someone frowned.
“It’s only normal you don’t remember. Tai Ya rarely reveals herself--- no, more specifically, people rarely mention her name, not many people know of her existence,” Athena furrowed her brows and continued slowly, “she was kidnapped when she was very young, like our Taeya, as a slave for the humans. However, I think her owner was very nice to her and never sealed her abilities. Instead, the human even trained her in martial arts and hired an entire mercenary group to escort her home.”
“Was there really such a thing?” None of the members had heard of this.
“Very few people know of this. And we all know this is considered a topic of embarrassment to the tiger tribe, they would never speak of it. I heard of this story only by coincidence. Thank goodness I did too or we would’ve lost this amazing opportunity,” explained Athena. The ‘opportunity’ she referred to was naturally Ye Lang.
“You’ve been talking for a long time but I still don’t know what you mean. What are you doing? Who is this Tai Ya of the tiger tribe?” asked Thomas directly.
“Both of your questions can be answered at the same time. I can’t tell you who she is but I think all of you have met her. And you would remember it too. I can tell you that she is the key to winning this war. That human would be used to threaten her,” said Athena.
“First, what’s the use of taking a human, who took Tai Ya of the tiger tribe in as a slave, as a hostage to threaten her? And before that--- I can’t think of any particularly memorable girl from the tiger tribe,” Thomas was suspecting their key strategist, Athena, to be making a mistake.
Who would care if the person who treated them as a slave was dead or alive? If their Taeya saw her owner, she would tear him to shreds. His corpse would be torn to pieces before she would have peace in her heart.
To be honest, Athena doubted herself too. But her heart told her she was right.