Chapter 15: Clear Water and Flying Sleeves
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
The Mystic Essence Sword Sect was one of the best martial arts sects within the Taiyuan nation. Disciples were also mostly from aristocratic families, and it was rather negligent of Qi Xunyi to detain the whole sect without seeking approval from the local authorities. It wasn’t a surprising move, however, since this particular prince had always acted as he pleased. Everyone in the world knew that he had no restraint and behaved the most preposterous of all princes. In fact, it would be weird if he actually followed conventions.
Qi Xunyi locked up whoever he wanted to before paying the Wuji nation’s advisor a visit. On behalf of the Taiyuan court, he expressed his deepest apologies to the advisor and immediately released an order to clear the latter of all suspicions.
At this point, Meng Fuyao had already infiltrated the advisor’s troops and exited the sect’s territory.
“Something’s strange,” Meng Fuyao mumbled for the umpteenth time, and finally muttered, “I had wanted to shift the blame, but it was merely to cause confusion and free myself in the process. Qi Xunyi’s definitely aware that something’s amiss and won’t be duped so easily, but it seems now that he’s determined to start from Lin Xuanyuan. Don’t tell me it’s because of his absurdity; from the exchange we had that night, I can tell that his so-called ‘lack of restraint’ is a mere pretense.”
“It’s better for a woman to be of average intelligence,” Yuan Zhaoxu advised with curled lips. “Isn’t it good that you’re free now? Why care so much?”
“Say it!” Meng Fuyao raised her voice urgently and grabbed his collar as if she was about to release a horse for battle.
“You do know that the powerful martial artists of every nation are participating in politics, and the Mystic Essence Sword Sect has always held a neutral stance. There are hints, however, that the sect is leaning toward the crown prince of Taiyuan in recent years… and between the crown prince and the third prince, they are only amiable on the outside.” Yuan Zhaoxu lifted his finger and regained control of his collar.
Shocked in realization, she expressed, “Ahh, so all Qi Xunyi needs is an excuse, no matter how lacking, for him to take action. No wonder you had me employ the sect’s skills when invading his room. As for Lin Xuanyuan, even if he knew that I was the culprit, he wouldn’t have been able to explain my whereabouts or even “death.” He’s been backed into a corner.”
Her eyes fell upon the hand that Yuan Zhaoxu had reached out. On the hollow of his palm was a pale-white lotus flower mark that looked incredibly realistic. Meng Fuyao couldn’t help but raise her brows and ask, “What’s that? A birthmark?”
After a brief pause, Yuan Zhaoxu jerked his hand, his sleeve falling back down to cover his palm. With a faint smile, he answered, “Sort of.”
He had on his usual expression, but Meng Fuyao could sense his unhappiness and figured that she had violated his personal space. Thus, she kept on a smile and said nothing more.
Lord Yuan Bao peeked his head out of Yuan Zhaoxu’s embrace and stared at the lotus flower with jealousy as if wanting to bite it off.
At this point, the troops had arrived at a stream at the bottom of the Mystic Essence Mountain and had stopped to rest and drink water. Qi Xunyi’s guards were a step behind them and reached in no time as well. Qi Xunyi’s carriage was ostentatiously bright and a beautiful maid and young male servant followed by the side. Because golden bells were attached to all four corners of the carriage, ringings could be heard from afar and throughout their whole journey.
An enchanting and soft singing voice, mixed with a delicate laugh, rang from inside the carriage. It sounded quite familiar, and as Meng Fuyao was trying hard to identify it, she also noticed the advisor exchanging glances with his subordinate, their expressions turning awkward immediately.
After a long time, she realized that it was “Fiddling with the Black Bamboo”, a tune within the top ten erotic songs of all times. It was a tune that only the most inferior prostitute would sing to entertain her guests. Brothels with better business wouldn’t resort to a tune like this.
The royal carriage that only dignified and excellent music should come out of was, at the moment, emitting a decadent and obscene tune. What a mismatch.
Even the advisor’s subordinate was revealing a look of disbelief. Observing the carriage out of the corner of her eye, Meng Fuyao recalled the devilish man from the night before, who was as alert as a leopard and his sword skills as powerful as a dragon. A cold smirk flashed across her face.
‘Better to stay far away from a man like him.’ Meng Fuyao walked to the upper reaches of the stream to get some water when a group of people rushed over, shouting, “Make way, make way!”
Meng Fuyao turned around to see a few male servants, each holding up a jade basin, towel, soap, and tray with a block of alum. They were preparing to draw water for Qi Xunyi to cleanse his face.
The advisor’s subordinate gave a look in response to the prince’s extravagant habits.
Meng Fuyao looked down at the water. It was so clean and free from contamination that they could drink straight from the stream. ‘Doesn’t he find it too excessive? Alum and all just for a face wash?’
Seeing that she was still in the way, a male servant reached out to push her aside. “Why are you still standing here? Don’t pollute the water! Go down!” he exclaimed in annoyance.
Deep in thought and caught off guard, Meng Fuyao slipped on the pebbles that were covered in moss and toward the water stream.
“Careful,” a gentle, clean yet distant voice sounded.
A white shadow leaped into the air and reached Meng Fuyao in the next second, grabbing her flailing arms in time to catch her fall.
She was being held in a half-slanted position, where a leg was raised 45 degrees, almost like a tango pose. Her hair was dangling and its end slightly grazing the clear water surface; it was a beautiful sight.
Because he had tugged her clothes so tightly in the process, her curves were being displayed and even accentuated. Although she was dressed in a man’s robe that was fluttering lightly in the wind, it was unable to conceal her charming figure.
Those present couldn’t help but keep their eyes on her. Silence fell over the stream for a moment.
The curtain in the middle carriage amid Qi Xunyi’s troops was pulled aside, revealing Pei Yuan’s jealous and murderous eyes. She could immediately identify that it was a beautiful lady by the stream.
Inside of the front carriage, a pair of bright eyes could be seen, and a faint “eh?” was heard after.
Meng Fuyao hadn’t realized that her identity as a woman had been exposed. She hurriedly held onto the man’s belt and regained balance. It was then that she could finally look at her savior.
The autumn sun started to set, coloring the grass along the stream a bright, golden yellow. The man in a white, unbelted robe stood tall and handsome and had neat brows. He had eyes and lips fairer than most, and when he smiled, she felt as though the autumn wind could transform into the spring breeze that accompanied the blooming of cherry blossoms.
Despite having removed his belt to save Meng Fuyao, he still appeared graceful and tidy. In fact, his loose robe added a natural and placid charm to his almost disaffectionate bearing.
Overwhelmed by his outstanding appearance, Meng Fuyao was left to wonder if she had been struck by Lady Luck. She quickly handed his belt over.
Just as she was about to express her gratitude, the man threw a calm smile her way. “It’s already a little dirty, to begin with so you can just throw it.”
At that he gave a courteous nod and returned to his own carriage, which was behind Qi Xunyi’s, leaving Meng Fuyao standing on the rocks with his belt and in a daze.
‘It’s still so new and white that it could put tofu to shame, and he says it’s dirty?’
‘What a strange character,’ she thought. ‘A high-born indeed.’
He had the perfect blend of features, was refined and modest, and was even kind enough to make an excuse that wouldn’t cause embarrassment for her.‘Considerate perhaps? But he doesn’t look easy to talk to at all… and throwing out a perfectly fine belt like it’s worthless, just because I’ve touched it?’
Thoughts ran through her head for quite some time before wiping her hands with his belt. ‘He doesn’t want it anyway!’
After wiping her hands clean, she noticed that it was made from natural silk and silver threads. There was a suet jade, sewn in the center but of the same color – expensive yet inconspicuous, just like that man.
After some thought, Meng Fuyao decided to keep it.
Yuan Zhaoxu, who had made way earlier, appeared all of a sudden and looked at her with a strange gaze. “Why are you keeping it?”
“It’s expensive! I can save it for a rainy day,” she answered matter-of-factly.
Frowning slightly, he added, “It has no worth. Throw it, and I’ll give you money if you ever need it.”
“Trying to trick me?” Meng Fuyao grinned. “Do you think I can’t tell the value of this jade? Plus, I’m a lady with integrity, and will not accept others’ charity work.”
Yuan Zhaoxu threw her an unreadable glance. “Yes, you don’t accept others’ alms; you pick their worn-out junk.”
“You..!” Meng Fuyao stuttered before turning to Lord Yuan Bao, who was at that moment peeking out from his clothes. Her loss was his win, and hence he was squeaking in delight. In a fit of anger, she flicked his forehead. Despite crying in pain, Yuan Bao did not forget to attempt a counterattack.
Before he could bite down on her finger, Meng Fuyao had already fled and was laughing out loud.
She took to a tree shade around the corner and spotted Qi Xunyi’s team. Since they were close by, Meng Fuyao got ready to retreat, only to be called out, “Hey, you.”
Turning around, she saw the male servant who had pushed her aside earlier. Although she wasn’t planning to cause a scene, that man waved with his eyes lit, “Come over, you.”
Surprised, she squinted her eyes at him. “Me?”
“Yes, you,” he answered bluntly. “We don’t have enough people to serve our master. Come help.”
Irritated by Meng Fuyao’s face, he continued, “You’re not going to leave empty-handed.” At that, he retrieved a string of copper coins and tossed it on the ground. “100. Enough to feed you with the meat from Yanjing’s stew stalls for half a month.”
Meng Fuyao lowered her head, eyeing the coins by her feet. After some time she smiled, picked them up and even blew the dust off them.