Chapter 14: Scheming for the Destruction of Mystic Essence
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
With another brush of his sleeve, the clump of green powder evaporated into a ball of green fog that slowly rose up in the quiet room.
The wind set the beaded window curtain in motion. Behind the man stood a door which led to the eastern pavilion, and it opened up without a sound.
A faint, white shadow could vaguely be seen in the dark.
Catching that white shadow, the man instantly lost his disquieting expression. Turning around with a calm bearing, he spoke with a tone of respect and deliberate cordiality. “Sorry to alarm you, Sir Zong.”
“No worries, Your Highness,” the man in white responded while walking out from the darkness. He gazed out of the window at the fluttering leaves and added with a meaningful expression, “I wasn’t planning to sleep.”
He turned to the tea set on the table somewhat hesitantly, and Qi Xunyi immediately invited, “I haven’t touched that. Please use it.”
Flashing an apologetic smile, the man in white poured a cup of tea for himself with quick and light movements. His hands were clean and slender, and despite the lack of light within the room, the moonlight was enough to highlight the softness of his profile, the lightness of his eyes and lips, which reminded one of a freshly bloomed, spring cherry blossom.
He wet his lips with a sip of tea and continued gazing at the fallen leaves outside. “It’s not time yet… for these leaves to fall…” he spoke gently.
Throwing a glance out of the window, Qi Xunyi knitted his brows a little and smiled, “I really do admire you for having a heart so compassionate, Sir Zong… a doctor indeed… even taking pity on leaves.”
“Just call me Zong,” the man in white returned the smile and placed his teacup down. “I’ve always had a soft spot for plants and can’t help but feel hurt when they wither and fall. Sorry to have embarrassed myself in front of Your Highness.”
“Just call me Xunyi, then.” Qi Xunyi broke into a big laugh. “Why so formal? Names are meant to be called.”
In response to his candid laughter and flickering gaze, Zong simply smiled in silence.
Staring into Zong’s eyes, Qi Xunyi continued, “You probably have seen it.”
Zong nodded without much change in expression.
“Who do you think is behind it? Those motions…” Qi Xunyi hesitated, his eyes burning.
Zong broke the silence after a long while, saying, “Your Highness is number 1 when it comes to ability, insight, and being pedantic. Your Highness must already have an idea just from observing the perpetrator’s movements. A pity I’m not as wise and discerning, or I’d be able to share your worries.”
Qi Xunyi’s eyes sank before he gave a kind wave. “You’re too humble, Sir Zong. Actually, I dare not burden you with trivial matters like this. Please have an early rest, and I’ll trouble you to take care of my cousin’s injuries.”
“Princess Yuan’s injuries are serious, and the osteoclast is deepening her wound. It’s easily treatable but almost impossible for it to fully recover.”
“Please, Sir,” Qi Xunyi bowed.
Upon returning his bow, Zong retreated back to his room.
Right after Zong’s departure, Qi Xunyi’s confident facade fell apart completely. He stared gloomily toward the door where Zong had exited through and cursed at the floor after a short pause, “Bast*rd!”
A lady’s screech broke the silence of the night, her voice containing anger, despair, fear, and frenzy all at once. It was as if the dark sky had been slashed and shattered by a bloodied knife.
Inside the grand hall, wrapped in heavy curtains and an agarwood scent, an exquisite copper mirror had fallen onto the ground and broken into pieces.
A pair of neat brows, a sharp nose, and a thick, black hair, could be seen in the mirror, but there were also two bone-baring scars that formed an “X” on her forehead.
On this beautiful face lay a scar so hideous and staggering that one can’t help but let out a helpless sigh.
A group of servants rushed over, only to bow and retreat like ebbing waves the next moment. They were beyond intimidated by those bitter and vengeful eyes of hers.
Pei Yuan tottered forward and slumped down before her makeup table. She grabbed the corners of her table with trembling hands. No amount of jaw clenching could stop the incessant shaking of her body.
‘It’s over… all over…’
The face that she had been so proud of… the unrivaled face that no lady in the whole of Taiyuan royal family could match up to… all gone with the flash of a light from that night. All gone.
She was going to become an object of ridicule. The ordinary-looking women in the palace, whom she had belittled so much previously, were going to put on the most sympathetic faces and the most affectionate words they could muster to console her.
Just imagining their deceptive behavior sent her straight into a state of hysteria.
“Get the hell out! All of you!”
The heavy curtains moved gently as the servants scuttled out, quickly clearing the room.
The light emitting from the jade-green lamps shone down on the muslin curtain and into the isolated room, where Pei Yuan could be seen lying limp on the floor against the table with her shoulders shaking as she sobbed softly.
Her sobs were discontinuous and muffled, as though she was trapped within a permanent nightmare.
The cool breeze invited itself into the hall through the half-opened window, winding about and diffusing a faint and low murmur into the air.
The murmur was soft yet as sharp as a steel wire or an ice cone in a glacier, and it contained an inextinguishable coldness and rancor.
“Let me find out who you are… I’ll take my revenge… until the day I die…”
Her earlier screech had punctured the silent night, and everyone in the Mystic Essence Manor had heard it and reacted differently.
Gaze abstruse, Qi Xunyi thought hard about all possible calculations, plans, and situations, but spared no time to take pity on his cousin’s plight.
Resting both hands on the windowsill, Zong stared into the void-like darkness before him. Yet, his eyes weren’t vacant – his mind was still in the present moment, taking in the view of the night frost and pondering over the obscure fate of all life forms.
Upon hearing Pei Yuan’s screech, he extended his hand out, seemingly to wave away whatever mist that was blocking his vision.
Strangely, there was no pity in his eyes as well.
On a faraway mountain peak sat a man in loose clothes, leisurely leaning against a big rock and playing with an oddly-shaped mirror while overlooking the Mystic Essence Manor.
Lord Yuan Bao squatted on his knee, letting the wind ruffle his snow-white fur. He, too, had his attention fixed on the same direction, quietly observing sheet of darkness in front.
His gaze was grave, and his posture was tense. He had already accompanied his owner for half an hour.
He spotted nothing, however.
Turning his head, Yuan Zhaoxu looked reluctantly at his pet, who was posing very deliberately, before getting up.
His movement left Lord Yuan Bao tumbling clumsily onto the ground, revealing all four feet and a pink belly.
“What a fool,” Yuan Zhaoxu commented.
As Lord Yuan Bao lay sprawled out on the ground, all ready to bawl, his owner added, “Qi Xunyi, I mean.”
The fragmented pieces of Lord Yuan Bao’s heart were instantly whole again.
Fast footsteps sounded from behind as a gust of wind blew over, causing the tree leaves to rustle. A crisp, female voice rang, “Aha! That screech had an impressively high decibel. A soprano for sure.”
An umber-black shadow flashed forward to push Yuan Zhaoxu aside before plopping down. Rubbing her knee and baring her teeth, Meng Fuyao growled, “That fellow’s so powerful. It took me all I had to escape. The adrenaline was so high that I felt nothing after bumping into a tree. It’s starting to hurt quite a bit now that I’m finally resting.”
After some time she continued, “Where’s he from? Seems formidable, the people from Pei Family.”
Yuan Zhaoxu fed Lord Yuan Bao some fruits, successfully diverting his attention away from the fact that he had just been bullied. As Yuan Bao waited happily for the next mouthful, Yuan Zhaoxu responded irrelevantly, “You’re complaining so much in hope that I’d personally give you a massage?” In replying to her question, he had delayed feeding Yuan Bao, which caused the latter to throw an irritated glare at Meng Fuyao.
Not shrinking, Meng Fuyao returned his glare with her eyes wide open. “You’d better rub his tummy instead. He’s suffering from indigestion, it seems, and that’s not good.”
Yuan Bao hissed at Meng Fuyao but was ignored. Laughing and wiping his hands with a cloth, Yuan Zhaoxu spoke, “The royal family.”
Meng Fuyao narrowed her eyes in thought. In a lower voice, she repeated, “Royal family?”
Light was flowing in his eyes as he questioned, “Regretting?”
She raised a brow and pursed her lips. “I only regret not piercing the sword right through her body.”
Noticing her glowing complexion and the flickering light in her eyes, he asked, “Do you know whose room you were in earlier?”
“Taiyuan’s third prince, Qi Xunyi,” he answered with a mysterious smile. “Also one of the seven sons of the whole of the five Region Continent, Prince Yi.”
“Prince Yi? ‘An apricot flower moistened by the misty drizzle; three thousand beauties dancing under the dazzling stars’? That truly absurd prince that’s known to possess the greatest literary talent and to have achieved the biggest accomplishments?”
Meng Fuyao was stupefied. She thought back to the snake-like ambush and the storm-like sword ray.
Eyeing her, Yuan Zhaoxu added, “Looks like it’s a good thing that I hadn’t shared his identity with you earlier. You might not have been able to flee if you had known.”
“Rubbish!” Meng Fuyao rolled her eyes. “Do you think good looks are enough to weaken my knees?”
Yuan Zhaoxu leaned over in a serious manner and patted Yuan Bao’s little head. “Don’t you think so, Lord Yuan Bao?”
“Squeak, squeak!” Yuan Bao agreed enthusiastically.
Meng Fuyao flew into a rage. “If I really were a pervert, you’d be the first victi-” she trailed off, eyes widening in shock and hurriedly covering her mouth.
Yuan Zhaoxu had a keen sense of hearing, unfortunately, and he lifted a brow at her. “Eh?”
Meng Fuyao sprung up and shouted, “I’ll get going!”
She sprinted with all her might, but she could vaguely hear a low laughter ringing close to her ears.
“Been my wish all along.”
Just as both had expected, things took a turn the next day.
Logically speaking, Qi Xunyi should have brought the matter up to Lin Xuanyuan first, so that they could come up with strategies. Instead, he pondered over it for the whole day and had sent people to investigate certain affairs. He had also engaged with some disciples within the sect before finally dropping Lin Xuanyuan a visit at night.
As for the discussion that went on between them, no one knew. Members only heard Master Lin raging while Qi Xunyi simply smiled and gave orders. The former had been suspected of colluding with Yun Family to harm Princess Pei Yuan, and thus was sent to Yanjing for interrogation. A massive pool of soldiers had been dispatched to watch all sect members. Since everyone was still a suspect, none was allowed to leave the manor.