Overcome by curiosity, everyone looked over, only to discover that there was nothing particularly special about the delicate little silver bells resting in Xia Keke's palms.
They weren't as shiny as the precious stones, nor as valuable as the spiritual artifacts. They looked so unexceptional that they really just seemed like an ordinary string of bells.
"You've decided?" inquired Lady Providence, but her expression shook as she saw what Xia Keke had chosen.
Xia Keke hesitated, biting her lip and pouting as she gazed back at the vast sea of treasures. Those gemstones were all so beautiful; she really wanted them.
She pursed her lips. Her inner turmoil was plain to see....
"I...I still want this one," she said and grasped it firmly in her palm.
Hearing this, the onlookers were struck dumb. Frankly, even Xiao Yumei could see that the string of bells was nowhere near as valuable as the precious stones, and wasn't even remotely comparable to the divine artifacts.
But she'd insisted on the bells even after Lady Providence questioned her decision.
The others couldn't help but wonder. Could it be that there was something special about the bells that attracted Xia Keke's attention?
After receiving Xia Keke's confirmation, Lady Providence nodded and smiled. She didn't ask any more questions, only re-sealed the spiritual tear.
Xia Keke looked on mournfully as it became smaller and smaller until all the precious stones had completely disappeared.
"In truth, that string of bells is extremely meaningful to me. When I got them, I was still a child, and had yet to take on a human shape."
Seeing their shocked expressions, she laughed despite herself and said, "It's true, I'm a yao as well. In fact, you and I are distantly related."
"Me?" said Su Liu'er, wide-eyed.
"In my original form, I belonged to a clan of foxes. However, we were only the most ordinary of fox yao, incomparable to primordial divine beasts like you Nine-tailed Heavenly Foxes. In ten thousand years, not one of us managed to take on human shape. Living long enough to die of old age was already extremely fortunate; most of us were captured by hunters and sold as pets to wealthy merchants, or skinned and turned into ornaments for noblewomen."
"Some humans really deserve death!" said Su Liu'er ferociously.
"The strong eat the weak. There's nothing worth getting angry about. Back then, we were weak, and couldn't even truly be considered a yao clan. We were wild beasts at most..... Naturally, our fate was to be bullied by mortals."
As she said this, her expression was completely calm.
"Wild beasts devour men, and men, in turn, devour wild beasts. This is the natural cycle of life and is completely unremarkable. For instance, take you Nine-tailed Foxes. Are you all vegetarians?"
"There's only a one-word difference between 'wild beast' and 'yao beast', but the gulf between them is vast. Yao and spiritual beasts, too, are separated by a vast chasm. From birth, some races are destined to be hunted for food and pleasure by men and beasts. This, too, is fate. And yet, I have never believed in fate."
As she said this last sentence, she unconsciously emanated a majestic aura.
She was no longer that weak little fox from before. Now she was a master of the Six Realms Inspection Bureau. She stood above the Six Realms, she had authority over hundreds of millions of lives.
She was a peerless figure, and because of her existence, her entire clan prospered in the God Realm.
Now, when the people of the God Realm saw even the most ordinary fox yao, they had to treat it with respect.
All because she was the God Realm's Lady Providence.
As the favorite of the God Emperor, no matter whether it was the Yao Realm, God Realm, or Demon Realm, they all had to treat her carefully.
Her appearance had brought prosperity to her formerly weak clan. They were no longer mere yao, but rather sacred beasts!
They had a preeminent position within the Yao Realm, and were practically neck and neck with primordial sacred beast clans.
"But, in truth, my accomplishments were made possible by a certain noblewoman. No matter how much I disdain fate, trying to reach my current level relying solely the ordinary innate talents of a fox would be a big joke," continued Lady Providence. "And that noblewoman was the owner of those bells. Meeting her enabled me to change my ordinary life around."
Lady Providence looked intently at those silver bells, her expression nostalgic.....
"Back then, I was trying to escape a group of human hunters...."
The sound of rustling vegetation.
"Where did that little fox run off to? You'd better look carefully. That little beast bit the Royal Princess. If you let it get away, it'll be your heads on the line."
A shrill voice cut through the forest, and ten blue-robed feudal soldiers crept through the forest, backs laden with arrows, eyes searching their surroundings intently.
They were chasing a fox at the request of the Royal Princess.
Their princess was deeply beloved by the emperor but had a tyrannical temperament. If the fox really got away, they might truly be parted from their heads just like that serving woman had said.
To preserve their lives, they had to put everything they had into catching it.
Meanwhile, a little fox, its body only eleven inches long, trembled amongst the shaded underbrush.
Its snow-white fur was stained with blood, and its red eyes flashed with terror. Its little body crouched under the weeds as it shivered uncontrollably.
The fox was terrified. In the past, these people had taken many of its aunts and uncles.
The clan-elders had told it that if humans wearing this kind of clothing appeared, it had to run away. If it fell into their hands, its whole life would be ruined.
The fox had always kept that in mind, until today.....
It had run into these people.
A beautiful woman had captured it, but the fox refused to submit, and instead bit the woman.
The woman had shrieked in fury as the fox fled, but then one of those blue-robed men had shot it in the leg.
It couldn't run any further.
"There are traces of blood over here."
One of the soldiers called out, and the others rushed over. A comparatively aged soldier crouched and wiped up some of the blood, then sniffed it.
"The blood is still fresh. It's been shot, so that little fox couldn't have gotten far. It has to be hiding somewhere in the underbrush, so pay close attention. You mustn't let it get away."
"Understood," The others assented, then looked carefully through the vegetation. As their footsteps grew closer and closer, the little fox grew progressively more terrified.
One of them discovered the thicket it was hiding in. Their leader called out to the others. The fox, seeing this, dashed out and fled with all its might.
As the older man gave his commands, the younger soldiers strung their bows.
The fox glanced back at the weapons in horror, then, heedless of its injuries, fled with all its might.
"Ee? What a silly little fox。"
As it ran, it collided with a woman's leg. She smiled, then crouched down and pulled it into an embrace. This was the moment that completely changed its destiny.