Chapter 2: 17 Years Later
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
The damned gentleman refused to take the lead and insisted that she escape first. Being loyal at times like this produced the opposite effect. Meng Fuyao’s eyes were as red as her hair. She gritted her teeth and threw a punch at his chivalrous face. Her punch was so sudden and hard that he saw all the stars of the universe.
This way, Meng Fuyao successfully forced that fellow into the hole. She even kicked him in the bum to accelerate the process.
“Reason some more and I’ll punch you to death!”
That single punch was amazingly effective, as no one after that fellow resisted her assistance. Things went south when she reached out for Fatty, but caught nothing.
When she turned her head back, she realized that Fatty had rolled down the side that was caving in and was trying to cling onto whatever could break his fall. A huge pile of sharp rock mess was waiting for him below.
Fatty was bawling, unable to properly express a word.
Meng Fuyao looked at her feet and hooked them around a protruding copper lamp. She then let her body dangle off the ground and extended her arms, grabbing Fatty’s thick arm just in time.
Tears stained Fatty’s whole face as he howled, “Missy, Missy! I told you not to open it…”
Meng Fuyao pinched the boy’s firm layer of neck-fat and pushed him toward the exit. Unfortunately, Fatty’s plump bottom got stuck halfway through. Meng Fuyao urgently reached for her metal pick. “I’ll jab you!”
“Don’t jab my buttocks!” Fatty whined, bracing himself with a deep breath.
Meng Fuyao burst into laughter. However, as she was about to get up, something caught her eyes.
It was a jade-green, handle-like object caught between some rocks that was about to drop.
She instinctively reached out for it and shouted, “Good! Good stuff!”
It was a genuine artifact from the Han dynasty. Out of the relics that had been discovered thus far, only a few dated back to realms that had existed before the Tang dynasty. This trip had basically earned them nothing, yet this newfound object could at least provide clues regarding the tomb owner’s identity and social customs of the past. At least, they had something to bring back.
“Come up, quick!” Fatty screamed with his head swaying about.
The jade-green handle was embedded with gold, so it was rather heavy. Meng Fuyao’s full attention was fixed on hoisting the object up, so she failed to notice that a faint red light had flashed by the moment it left the ground.
A bigger part of the ground collapsed, leaving only a pail-sized piece for her to stand on.
Fatty poked his sweat-filled head out of the hole, only for his view to be blocked by the handle. “Not this! You!” he cursed.
“You want me?” Meng Fuyao joked while pushing the object in his hands. “Take it! No harm done!”
Fatty took it and nagged, “All this woman thinks about is her research!”
Now that the heavy handle was out of her hands, Meng Fuyao could finally breathe and get ready to climb up.
An eye-piercing, blood-red light exploded into view, instantly wrapping around her whole body. The ground beneath her feet gave way and rocks started smashing everywhere.
Fatty, who had just reached out with his arm, was unable to save her.
Fatty’s cries came to an abrupt stop as a strange wave of sounds, that sounded like a mix of guqin, flute, singing birds, and roaring dragons, clouded her surroundings.
“Brothers! Make it known that I’ve fought bravely…” Meng Fuyao trailed off.
Meng Fuyao stepped on the chest of the person below her. She supported her hands on her knees and leaned slightly forward, observing the object in her palm with interest by using the light seeping through the green canopy of the forest.
It was a black-colored token shaped like a hexagon with a simple design that was not made of gold or jade. The bottom right corner was slightly bigger than the others and razor sharp, resembling a dark green fang that shimmered eerily in the sunlight.
Meng Fuyao caressed the protruding fang with her finger gently. A smile that was difficult to decipher appeared on her face. She whistled as she played with the token in her palm.
Fuyao raised her chin. The motion drew a beautiful arc under the glistening sunlight, extending the exquisitely perfect lines on her face. The pair of elegant, graceful brows on her pure white forehead made her dark eyes appear even brighter. They shone without restraint, unable to be concealed, just like the sharp edge of a sword.
“It’s the Heaven Demon Dynasty’s entrance seal! I’m so lucky!”
Fuyao dusted off her hands and casually tucked the black token into her clothes. When the token was hidden, a barely audible noise that sounded like gold and jade colliding was heard. There were two other similar tokens with slightly different shapes in her robes, each one representing a different country.
As she listened attentively to the noise, Meng Fuyao smiled.
‘When I collect all the entrance seals for the Seven Kingdoms, I will finally…’
When she heard the sound of footsteps moving closer behind her, Fuyao narrowed her eyes and sealed the acupoint of the person on the ground. Then, she flew to the shrubs ahead with a single leap.
When she landed, turned around and looked at the person who had arrived, a smile started to form on the corner of her lips. Her eyes were shining radiantly with a hint of happiness and concern that could not be restrained.
The young man in green, who was walking toward her, was tall and handsome and had a beautiful complexion. Based on his clothes and aura, it was easy to discern that he had a good family background. There was a hint of a warm, amiable smile at the corner of his lips, as if one was being caressed by a spring breeze.
Yan Jingchen, who was the most outstanding disciple of the Mystic Essence Sword Sect, had been born into a wealthy and influential aristocratic family, so he was really popular amongst female disciples in the Sword Sect.
“Playing in the mountains again, I see…” Yan Jingchen stopped three feet away from Fuyao. A warm but accusing hint of a smile appeared at the corner of his lips. “If you don’t train properly, you will place last again at the martial arts competition tomorrow. Do you like getting scolded?”
Fuyao smiled nonchalantly and casually swept her hair. “It’s alright, I lose all the time. I’m used to it by now.”
She absent-mindedly repeated the answers to the conversation that they frequently had, but did not notice the conflicted, hesitant look in Jingchen’s eyes. When he heard her answer, Jingchen’s expression darkened. However, she didn’t notice it.
“Fuyao!” Jingchen stared at her for a long while. In the end, he could not resist taking a step forward. “Can’t you spend more time practising your martial art techniques? Power is widely respected in the Five Region Continent. A person who learns martial arts but never improves will be met with cold stares and many difficulties when they travel the realm. You… Have you never thought of trying harder to improve your situation?” he said in a low voice.
He paused before adding, “Even if you did it only for me?”
Even if you did it only for me.
Fuyao felt a stirring in her heart. When she looked deeply into Jingchen’s eyes, she was able to see his hesitance, unease and even a faint hint of pain. The pain caused the bottom of her heart to ache. She recalled that the disappointment in his gaze had been appearing more and more frequently during the past few days.
The instant Fuyao opened her mouth, she felt the urge to tell him the secret she had been hiding at the bottom of her heart.
She wanted to tell him that she was not bad at practising martial arts. The reason she was unwilling to practise the Mystic Essence’s internal energy was because it clashed with her sect’s Cleaving Nine Heavens martial arts. She also wanted to tell him, ‘Just a little more. One day, I’ll make you proud. You won’t have to be mocked and humiliated because of me anymore. You will never again lose your dignity or be placed in a difficult position. Just… Not yet!’
Her Teacher’s reminders before they parted were still ringing in her ears. ‘Never reveal your original martial arts to any sect.’
Meng Fuyao had sworn a heavy oath that she could not break.
Jingchen was loyal to his sect and infatuated with martial arts. If she told him the truth, the Mystic Essence Sect’s leader would be informed sooner or later.
Meng Fuyao took a deep breath and fluttered her thick eyelashes. Her bright, pure gaze was reflected in the eyes of Jingchen, whose gaze carried a trace of despair due to his long wait.
“Jingchen, I have tried my best…”
Yan Jingchen stared at her. After a long while, he exhaled slowly. When he heard her answer, the anxiety and despair in his eyes dwindled and was replaced with a sense of resignation and helplessness.
Suddenly, he changed the topic. “In a year, the True Martial Arts Meet that will be held in the Heaven Demon Dynasty Capital will bring together expert martial art practitioners from all seven kingdoms. The participants will be tested in martial arts, the art of war and strategies to fight for the top seven positions in the world. The winners will have control over the military power of the seven kingdoms. Teacher said that Pei Yuan and I will represent the Mystic Essence Sword Sect. I will be rushing home tomorrow to prepare for the competition.”
As he spoke, his voice held little emotion. The glistening sun over the distant mountain shone its rays down on Yan Jingchen, whose back was facing the light, making him appear distant. He had an indistinguishable expression on his face.
Meng Fuyao’s heart shuddered as she smiled reluctantly. “The two of you are the most outstanding pair of disciples in the Sword Sect. Lord Tai Yuan has even bestowed you with the title Pearl Jade Double Swords. It is only natural that the Mystic Essence Sword Sect would send both of you to compete.”
As Yan Jingcheng stared deeply at her, his voice sounded strange. “Fuyao, I would actually rather that this title refers just to the two of us.”
The smile on Meng Fuyao’s face became even more strained. She also wished as much. No matter how generous a girl was, she would never want her beloved to be paired up with another girl and be proclaimed a perfect match.
As the sunset passed quickly, the sky, that had been previously alight with romantic hues of red, orange and purple, was now only left with a shade of faint red. As it shone through the green leaves, it made Yan Jingchen, who remained standing three feet away, seem unreal.
A wave of unexplainable nervousness rushed from the bottom of Meng Fuyao’s heart, making her heartbeat quicken. This intense sense of unease gave her an ominous feeling. She had to say something now. Otherwise, she would not get another chance in the future.
“Jingchen, I need to tell you-”
“Fuyao, I need to tell you something.” Yan Jingchen suddenly cut her off quickly. If he spoke slower, he would never get the words out. “My family has sent me a letter. They have arranged for me to marry Pei Yuan, and her family has agreed. The wedding will take place after the True Martial Arts Meet.”
The words that Meng Fuyao had intended to say suddenly got stuck in her throat.
She raised her eyes and stared at Yan Jingchen. However, he was not looking at her. Instead, he was gazing at a half-withered flower as he talked rapidly.
“Considering your current situation, my family would not allow us to be together. The Pei family is related to the imperial family. Despite my family’s background, my status is lower compared to theirs. We didn’t expect much from this proposal, but I heard that Pei Yuan agreed personally. Since the Pei family has already given their word, there is no reason to break the engagement. Plus, my family cannot afford to offend the Pei family.”