Chapter 25: Meeting on a Narrow Path
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
One of them had taken her place in the cubicle while the other left to inform Zhan Beiye that the madam was having a stomachache and would be out later.
The palace maid’s acting was so hostile and contrived that the violent, tyrannical male lead in Meng Fuyao’s story immediately felt it odd. He couldn’t understand where her enmity came from, and wouldn’t have imagined at that point that he had unknowingly been painted as a scum-of-the-earth kidnapper and fetus killer.
After tainting his reputation with zero remorse and climbing out of the hatchway, Meng Fuyao sprinted and hid as much as she could, and went through any door she spotted. Shortly after, she was no longer within the Qingyun Palace Hall’s perimeters, but after more walking and turning, the halls started to look the same, and she just couldn’t locate the main entrance.
She was lost.
Before her was an empty palace park. She squatted down and tugged at her hair in frustration, cursing the Taiyuan imperials for having done the palaces up without following any structured design. She then tapped on her knowledge in history and archaeology: There were three layers to the Imperial City, and the Qingyun Palace Hall was seated in the center. By right, she should’ve been out of the whole palace since she had walked outward from the center in a straight line. But by the looks of it, she had landed in the inner palace instead.
She was dressed in a palace maid’s clothes since she was able to obtain a set from the ladies before. Since no one had really questioned her about it, she decided to seek out a lowly eunuch to ask for directions. Suddenly, a delicate fragrance drifted over from a winding corridor.
It smelled extremely familiar, like Chinese peony with some quality borneol. She sniffed it more, her face abruptly changing. It was Pei Yuan’s perfume!
Meng Fuyao turned around, wanting to leave when she heard the clinking of bracelets. A man in red had appeared from a corner of the corridor and had someone with him. As they walked on, he smiled. “You need to head to Xin Palace now, Princess. Let your humble servant lead the way.”
“No need.” a haughty voice filled the air. It was Pei Yuan indeed, sounding harsher than ever before. “Don’t trouble yourself, Eunuch Jin. Just get a maid.”
Meng Fuyao was writhing in disbelief at this point. She attempted to blend into some bushes behind, but the moment she moved, Eunuch Jin called out for her.
She stood rooted to the ground as thousands of thoughts flashed across her mind. ‘To flee or not to flee?’
She wouldn’t get far even if she were to run since that d*mn bastard had sealed her inner energy. If she were to get recognized by Pei Yuan, the latter would easily guess that she was the cause of her scars. When that happened, she would be left begging for a merciful death.
Meng Fuyao clenched her teeth and blamed herself for escaping from Zhan Beiye in the first place. Yes, he had restricted her freedom, but he meant no harm. She wouldn’t have fallen into this state if she had just stayed by his side obediently.
Her hesitation quickly angered the princess. The eyes behind Pei Yuan’s veil turned menacing as she remarked, “Aren’t your maids getting a little too unruly, Eunuch Jin? Ignoring your calls like that.”
Humiliated, and hence agitated, Eunuch Jin stomped his feet, booming, “You wench! Which palace are you from? So lawless! Head to the prosecution chamber right now – 30 flogs!”
‘Asking me to get flogged?’
Meng Fuyao was over the moon. She speedily bowed and was about to take her to leave when Pei Yuan’s cold voice sounded, “Hold it.”
Vexed, Meng Fuyao stopped, her nails digging into the flesh of her palms as sweat poured out.
Pei Yuan no longer spoke, and the whole corridor fell into silence. Meng Fuyao felt as though there was a laser beam-like gaze that burned the skin on her back, cleaving all disguise and penetrating into the deepest of her bones.
Meng Fuyao’s garment was starting to get soaked as well.
She wasn’t sure if it was the iciness in Pei Yuan’s gaze or the coolness of the deep autumn breeze, but she could feel layers of chilliness entering her body. It was as if snakes were wriggling underneath her clothes. A venomous odor emerged amid the moisture.
Behind her, Pei Yuan broke into a smile and turned to Eunuch Jin. “She seems a little foolish and ignorant, but her punishment is too severe. Let her wait for me for a bit instead. You can go finish up your chores. It’s His Majesty’s birthday, and you mustn’t miss the banquet in Qian An Palace later.”
“Your wish is my command, Princess.” Eunuch Jin complied and retreated, leaving only Pei Yuan and Meng Fuyao in the desolate part of the palace.
Meng Fuyao inhaled deeply before putting on the most flattering smile she could muster and turning around.
Before she could say anything, however, Pei Yuan floated toward her like a ball of cloud, with both hands behind her back.
Meng Fuyao’s heart sank when she saw Pei Yuan executing the sect technique, Flying Cloud.
Pei Yuan stood steadily before her, flashing a wide smirk that contained an indescribable sharpness, no different from a lightning bolt that kept hidden amid the dark clouds.
She crooked her head slightly, words rolling off her tongue one by one, briskly yet cuttingly. “Meng. Fu. Yao.”
Meng Fuyao rubbed the sweat off her fingers with the inner side of her sleeves and turned around calmly to meet Pei Yuan’s murderous glare before smiling. “Pei. Yuan.”
“It’s you, indeed,” Pei Yuan commented, looking her up and down. “It’s no wonder I found this figure of yours so familiar. You’re not dead, Meng Fuyao.”
“You’re still alive so how dare I die first?” Meng Fuyao laughed. “I’ve yet to seek revenge.”
Pei Yuan was about to take a step closer when Meng Fuyao’s words hit her. After some thought, she asked, “What act are you putting on? Aren’t these scars on my face your doing?”
“Is there anything I dare not say?” Meng Fuyao, too, took a step forward and questioned. She looked right into Pei Yuan’s eyes, her bright gaze equally determined under the latter’s deadly glare. “How I wish that marvelous masterpiece was my doing. Look at that cross! How satisfying.”
“You!” Pei Yuan expressed, grinding her teeth as her whole body trembled. The doubt in her eyes thickened from Meng Fuyao’s blatant confession. She clenched her jaws, deep in thought, and shouted with a sharpened gaze after a short pause, “Not right. We haven’t met since you fell off the cliff, so how would you know that it is a cross on my face now that I’m veiled?”
It was the line Meng Fuyao had been waiting for. As in on cue, she let out a panicked expression, retreated a few steps and kept mum.
Pei Yuan wasn’t going to let it go, naturally. She strode forward, forcing her to a corner. “Speak! How do you know?”
Meng Fuyao kept her hands inside her sleeves as she looked at Pei Yuan with a slightly bent head. “Eh, Pei Yuan, why are you coming so close? Aren’t you afraid that I’ll kill you?”
This reminder had Pei Yuan forgetting herself. When she remembered that her skills were beneath Meng Fuyao’s, she hesitated before shifting backward in slow motion. Then, she laughed coldly and warned, “I would have to be wary if we were in any other place. It’s a pity we’re in Taiyuan palace right now, and there are guards just 30 steps away. You’ll turn into minced meat the moment I call for them. You’d better worry about yourself, Meng Fuyao.”
Meng Fuyao casually leaned against the pillar behind her and crossed her arms. “Bring it on. Minced meat, you say? Try killing me without batting an eyelid again. I’ll have to congratulate you, then, because you’ll never find out who your real enemy and the culprit is.”
“You’re my real enemy,” Pei Yuan declared, her eyes flickering and sizing Meng Fuyao up. “Don’t bother trying anything in front of me.”
Meng Fuyao threw her a side glance before grinning. She straightened her body and coquettishly clasped her fingers together. “What are you unsure of, Pei Yuan? How ’bout you make a move quick and stop wasting time? You’re not stupid, so you should know that I was heavily injured that night. I did survive, but would I have had recovered my energy so fast, in time to hurt you? Yes, no?”
Pei Yuan retracted her gaze as Meng Fuyao had hit the nail right on the head. She only had a feud with Meng Fuyao that night, but she had been gravely injured indeed. But who, if not her? Could there really be such a coincidence?
“I’ll be honest with you.” Meng Fuyao started, upon reading Pei Yuan’s expression. Smiling more carelessly, she continued, “I was saved that night by someone who has all along been your enemy. Saving me was just out of convenience, but killing you is and will remain imperative.”
“Who is it?”
“Why should I tell you? To let you kill me after?” Meng Fuyao leaned back, vigorously shaking her head. “Do you think I lack a brain, like you?”
Not understanding what Meng Fuyao had just said but instinctively guessing that it was something negative, Pei Yuan opened her eyes wide in anger and bellowed, “I’ll seize you first!”
Meng Fuyao unclasped her hands, inviting. “Come, come. Do you believe when I say that I can draw another cross on your face before the guards you’re about to call for arrive?”
Those words effectively shut Pei Yuan up as she opened her mouth and closed it again.
Unable to contain it any longer, Meng Fuyao burst into a confidence-filled laughter. She opened up her hand, curling her pinky finger slightly and spreading the other fingers evenly.
In response to the foreign gesture that Meng Fuyao had so indifferently flashed, Pei Yuan could only swallow the urge to call for the guards.
Meng Fuyao continued laughing as her eyes glistened, like a top-grade satin from Xuanji Nation would, amid the breeze under the sun. Pure and at ease, her smile flowed through the palace’s thick hibiscus and chrysanthemum plants like a stream, watering and nourishing all flowers along its path.
No one knew, of course, that sweat beads were oozing out from all over her head and body, and made cool by the incoming breeze.
Pei Yuan was naturally vicious, so even if she were to believe that Meng Fuyao wasn’t the culprit, she would still hope for her death. Judging from Pei Yuan’s current mood, Meng Fuyao wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to gift her a cross too.
As such, Meng Fuyao’s only possible way out was to act tough in order to instill doubt into Pei Yuan.
Pei Yuan stared at Meng Fuyao, never letting her eyes off her. Nevertheless, her feet started moving carefully as she took a step back.
On the other hand, Meng Fuyao stood as still as a boulder, trying hard to suppress her urge to flee.