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114 The Choice

 Although, every now and then, Hli Ja will see something that would remind her of Mua Kong, Pa Chee, and Chue Yi. The sadness that she had pushed to the bottom of her heart crept up and took hold over her mind. She doubted Mua Kong, wondering if what Pa Chee said was true.

Was he already married? Was that the reason he never formally announced their relationship to the palace? But no matter how lost she felt at times, her clingy son's iron grip pulled her back to reality.

When Pao Hua came back, he neatly stacked the food onto one of the shelves they had designated their pantry inside the carriage.

Hue Houa was clinging to his mom's legs while she hung up the laundry.

When Pao Hua finished, he walked outside and saw the baby koala glued to his mother. It was difficult for Hli Ja to move around with him there. Pao Hua sighed, playfully shouting, "Superglue! Come here!" Hue Houa was so clingy and would often stick like glue to Hli Ja that Pao Hua given him the nickname, Superglue.

Little Superglue shrieked at the sound of Pao Hua's voice. His eyes shut tight and he turned away, refusing to look at Pao Hua. He clung tighter to his mom's leg, planting her there. Hli Ja sighed.

"Superglue! Come here. You're making it hard for mommy to do her work," Pao Hua called again.

Little Superglue was still ignoring Pao Hua. Seeing that going easy was going nowhere, Pao Hua took out a candy bar and opened it slowly.

Superglue heard the crinkling of the wrapper, looking over to Pao Hua with his big round eyes. Pao Hua knew that this method always worked, so he pretended to take a bite of the candy.

"Ahh... Mine, mine!" Hue Houa shouted as he let go of his mother's leg, stampeding to Pao Hua.

"Hehe. You promise to be good?"

"Mhm. Good, good," The Superglue nodded firmly. His big smile reminded one of a crescent.

Nearly three years later, after the incident at the inn, it was a couple of months before the annual fall festivals. Right now Pao Hua and Hli Ja were in town trading, like normal. There were murmurs that Prince Mua Kong is looking for a new wife.

Many women who had much wealth and a high status were thrilled. They were shopping for the best dresses with the most expensive materials to attend the festival.

When Hli Ja caught wind of the rumors, her face became heavy. She had thought, as time passed, his name would hurt her heart less and less, but her feelings for him haven't changed at all.

Hli Ja wondered to herself. She wondered if he already had a wife? Why had he even taken her in if he was married? Why was he looking for a new wife if he already had one? Was one not enough for him? She felt depressed hearing the rumors among the townsfolk.

Although she tried not to think of him, the chorus of talk about him pulled at her heart.

Hli Ja was not sure if she could live in a country where Mua Kong ruled. Seeing him happy was all she had ever wanted, but she didn't have the confidence to face Mua Kong and his wives.

In a swing of selfishness, she made the rash decision to journey north. She wanted to cross the border into the Northern country with the hopes of finding a place to settle down. If she stayed, the news of Mua Kong would just gnaw at her heart. She'd been trying so hard to bury him in her past.

After the family of three left town, Hli Ja took them and traveled north.

Almost a week later, they crossed the invisible boundy into the northern country. They were welcomed by a group of bandits.

When the bandits surrounded them, Hli Ja ordered, "Take Hue Houa with you and run. Don't look back. I'll find you later." Hli Ja was not sure if she could beat them, but she could distract them and create an opportunity for her brother and son to escape.

Hli Ja strapped a bag onto her baby, cutting the reins to one of the horses. She put Pao Hua and Hue Houa onto the horse and smacked it's side, making it gallop away.

They didn't make a big deal out of a mere two children. They would get the woman and the carriage full of stuff. The bandits didn't think much of the two boys who escaped with nothing.

In the study, Pao Hua trembled and wiped away his tears. "I took Hue Houa as far as I could before stopping. There was nothing I could do, knowing that my sister's only wish was that we get away safely. When we arrived in the next town, I looked to see what was in the bag.  I found the journal that my sister had been writing in, inside. I read it and made the journey to see you. It took us 3 weeks to reach this place. I wasn't sure if I could infiltrate your palace, but I thought I could beg my way in with a sad story. Elder Mae took us in right away after she saw Hue Houa. She wouldn't stop staring at him. I wasn't expecting to see you so soon... but, here you are."

Mua Kong gripped his sword as he stood up. He huffed and yelled, "Dispatch some troops, we're going north to look for Hli Ja. Find out what bandits are occupying the Northern border!"

Seeing the furious flame in his Lord's eyes, Yee Len gently told him, "My Lord, the festival is in two weeks. You should stay behind. I will lead a group up north to find Her Highness. Don't you have some business to take care of?"

"How could I stay behind knowing that she is alive, and in danger?" Mua Kong replied, feeling powerless.

At first Mua Kong hesitated, he wanted to see Hli Ja but knew that Yee Len was also right. There's business that he needs to be taken care of back home.

Mua Kong looked at Pao Hua, his only witness. To take down the Prime Minister's family, he needed evidence.

Mua Kong snuffed out the fury in his heart. He needed a calm mind so that he could think clearly. He has to thank Pao Hua for taking care of Hli Ja and his son.