With lips faintly pursed, Ji Feng Li silently stared at Hua Zhu Yu.
She couldn’t fathom what Ji Feng Li was thinking but his gaze made her feel uneasy, as if he could see right through her.
Apprehension crept in and Hua Zhu Yu wondered if Ji Feng Li had begun to harbor suspicions about her identity.
When she departed from the city walls that day to ride out and meet Xiao Yin, she never once thought she would have to exchange blows with him. But who could’ve expect Xiao Yin to completely forget her very existence. She was left with no other choice but to defend herself against his attacks. She was certain the encounter hadn’t escaped Ji Feng Li’s notice, he must’ve been watching from the city wall towers.
At that time she was wielding a spear, a weapon rarely used by people from the Jianghu. Only those that went to war would be adept at using a spear but the sum of people who joined the army each year was by no means insignificant. Many people besides Ying Shu Xie1 could use a spear. Moreover, Tai Xiao Si2 had also impersonated Ying Shu Xie before so Ji Feng Li shouldn’t be suspecting her.
Hua Zhu Yu composed herself. Perhaps she was being overly paranoid.
Ying Shu Xie was a fugitive of Southern Kingdom. If Ji Feng Li suspected her, he would’ve already apprehended her. Why would he come to Northern Kingdom to rescue her?
That made no sense!
“Yuan Bao, you’re quite well-read to even be familiar with the terrains here,” Lan Bing glanced at Hua Zhu Yu, his eyes flickering with surprise.
“I just read a lot of books, that’s all,” Hua Zhu Yu indifferently remarked as she met Lan Bing’s gaze calmly.
“Yuan Bao, have you been on the battlefield before? Seeing you wield that spear with such ease was truly beyond my expectations,” Lan Bing faintly commented.
Hua Zhu Yu assessed Lan Bing but he was not an easy one to read either. Behind him stood Tong Shou who furrowed his brows and shot Hua Zhu Yu an inquisitive gaze upon hearing Lan Bing’s remark. His eyes held a trace of misgivings but if he was truly suspecting that she was Ying Shu Xie he wouldn’t have such an expression.
Hua Zhu Yu glanced over at Ji Feng Li only to find him lying there, resting on his arm as though asleep, completely oblivious to her conversation with Lan Bing.
She calmly looked up and met Lan Bing’s gaze. With a bitter smile on her lips, she grievously said, “You’re right, I have been on the battlefield. A Jianghu wanderer such as myself, what haven’t I done? Unfortunately though, before I could make any great contributions for my country, life thrust me into the depths of the palace to serve as a eunuch. Despite that, I thought that I could make something of my talents but here I am, a complete failure.”
Tong Shou let out a heavy sigh, thinking, who in their right mind would voluntarily become a eunuch.
Lan Bing also sighed and said, “It truly is a shame for such a talented person as yourself to be reduced to a eunuch. You don’t have to watch over Lord Chancellor tonight. I have already instructed people to erect a tent nearby so if you’re tired you can go get some rest.”
Hua Zhu Yu faintly smiled and quickly took her leave.
Outside, the night sky was pitch dark. The flaming torches served as the only sources of light, illuminating the barracks stationed with tents all around. Some soldiers had gone to rest for the night while others were assigned to patrol.
Neither armies made any aggressive movements to attack so the night was silent save for the footsteps of patrolling soldiers and the sound of the flag beating in the wind.
Stationed right beside Ji Feng Li’s tent was indeed a smaller tent. Taking a step inside, Hua Zhu Yu noted that it was quite simply furnished but still included all the daily necessities.
Since leaving Southern Kingdom, Hua Zhu Yu had always been sharing tents with other soldiers. Tonight was the first time she had a place all to herself. Taking off her shoes, she slowly laid down on the bed.
Though she was thoroughly exhausted, many things were running through her mind, keeping her awake.
She had been cautious and concealed her abilities since the martial competition, however after the battle everyone knew she was a skilled fighter. Considering the situation it would be suspicious if she continued trying to hide it. She might as well adopt the identity of a patriotic wandering Jianghu fighter.
Inside Ji Feng Li’s tent.
Slowly opening his eyes, Ji Feng Li coldly gazed at Lan Bing and Tong Shou.
“Lord Chancellor, Yuan Bao truly is a rare talent. You braved danger to save him from Northern Kingdom because you have a use for him right?” Lan Bing asked with a smile.
“Any news of Ying Shu Xie recently?” Ji Feng Li asked, ignoring Lan Bing’s question.
“Yes, this is the recent update from the capital,” Lan Bing said as he stepped forward and handed Ji Feng Li a letter.
After quickly reading through it, his phoenix eyes narrowed as his lips lifted in a faint smile, “Ying Shu Xie has appeared in Yu City?”
Lan Bing nodded his head and carefully asked, “Lord Chancellor, Ying Shu Xie appearing in Yu City, do you think he’ll enter the palace and assassinate the Emperor?”
“He won’t,” Ji Feng Li shook his head and carefully looked through the contents of the letter once more before tossing it into the fire which swallowed it whole, turning it into ashes.
“Silver mask, silver spear, Tian Ya Ming Yue (The Bright Moon at the End of the World) sword3, white Zhui Dian (Chasing Lightning) horse4....” Ji Feng Li leaned to the side and propped his chin on his palm. His thin lips lifted in a faint smile that was gentle yet slightly mischievous.
The more perfect a disguise appeared the more likely it was a ruse to keep something hidden. Could the real Ying Shu Xie actually be…
Ji Feng Li narrowed his eyes. It seemed his conjecture was on point. Ying Shu Xie ah, Ying Shu Xie, do you think you can fool me twice?
“Lord Chancellor…” Tong Shou didn’t quite follow and looked at Ji Feng Li.
“Lan Bing, I had you investigate Yuan Bao’s background before, tell me what you’ve found,” Ji Feng Li commanded.
“Yuan Bao first appeared at Zui Xian Fang (Drunken Square) where he worked as a musician for a short period of time. He caught Huangfu Wu Shuang’s eye and was sent to the palace to become a eunuch. Because he appeared so suddenly in the Imperial City, nothing else could be investigated. Usually, people with such appearance would leave a deep impression on others but nothing could be found!” Lan Bing also found it strange. When he sent Yuan Bao’s portrait to his informants, the investigation yielded nothing substantial; no one had seen this person before.
“There’s nothing strange, perhaps in the past he had never revealed his face before,” said Ji Feng Li with a smile.
Unable to make heads or tails of what was going on, Tong Shou scratched his head. “Why hasn’t he revealed his face before?”
Ji Feng Li glanced at Tong Shou then lazily said, “It’s possible he’s been training deep in the mountains.”
“So that’s why!” Tong Shou said with furrowed brows, taking Ji Feng Li’s words seriously.
Only Lan Bing did not believe Ji Feng Li. He vaguely felt as though Lord Chancellor had figured something out but wasn’t willing to tell them.
Tong Shou’s face kept darkening as he listened to them talk about Yuan Bao. He finally interjected with, “Yuan Bao is quite pitiful. For a man of such peerless talent to be reduced to a eunuch, forced to live as neither man nor woman. This subordinate’s investigations found out that Ge gong gong personally castrated Yuan Bao. Ge gong gong has done this kind of thing all his life and is well known for his knife skills. Despite this though I heard Yuan Bao lost a lot of blood…”
Illuminated by the candlelight, Ji Feng Li’s complexion was quite pale, even his lips were ashen, possibly due to the loss of blood or perhaps because he wasn’t in the best of moods. His fingers resting on the carpet slightly shook as his eyes flashed with a fleeting tinge of sorrow.
Lan Bing silently lowered his eyes. It was a true pity, especially for a prideful man such as Yuan Bao. Even still, Yuan Bao was nevertheless a man castrated by Ge gong gong; he couldn’t let Lord Chancellor fall down the wrong road.
Lan Bing shot a cold glance at Tong Shou, signalling for him to shut his mouth.
“Lord Chancellor, how should this war be handled? Should I call Wang Yu over to discuss it?” Lan Bing changed the subject.
“No need, I’m sure he’s already tired from today. Lan Bing, send a letter to Xijiang Yue, instruct him to quietly prepare army provisions and winter clothes just in case.” Ji Feng Li tiredly closed his eyes. “You all can withdraw.”
Lan Bing blew out the candles in the tent and walked out with Tong Shou.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
“Lan Bing, are our army provisions not enough?” Tong Shou asked with furrowed brows.
“Lan Bing sighed and said, “Lord Chancellor is just taking precautions, matters of court affairs are hard to predict.”
The Southern and Northern Army remained at Yangguan in a stalemate.
In accordance with Hua Zhu Yu’s plan, Ji Feng Li sent a team of soldiers to cut off the river leading into Yangguan, its only source of water. Xiao Yin left Yangguan city and retreated northward towards the Qing Ming river three days later.
Being able to retake Yangguan without losing a single life boosted everyone’s morale. But Hua Zhu Yu remained apprehensive, she felt that a person such as Xiao Yin wouldn’t forsake his goal so easily.
The troops of Southern Kingdom took over Yangguan and set camp ten miles north.
Ji Feng Li’s injury improved and he was able to move about. These days, Hua Zhu Yu had become his personal guard, taking care of his medication and bandaging his injury.
However, the peaceful days did not last long. The calm was broken when a scout’s letter reported that there were movements near Western Liang.
In a flash, the atmosphere chilled and tension enveloped the camp.
Hua Zhu Yu knew Xiao Yin would not easily let go, and sure enough he was waiting for the arrival of Western Liang’s Army. She had previously led troops in an overwhelming victory against Western Liang, forcing them to surrender and submit to a peace treaty. This forced submission would have surely nurtured feelings of discontent.
Perhaps Western Liang had always wanted to form an alliance with Northern Kingdom. They had tried to form a marriage alliance before when the King of Western Liang proposed to her believing she was Princess Zhou Ya, however she turned him down in favor of Dou Qian Jin.
The current cooperation between Western Liang and Northern Kingdom left South Kingdom in a bind.
There were only 20,000 troops currently stationed at Liangzhou because of the peace treaty. They weren’t as strong as those of the Hua army nor were they sufficient in number to defend an attack by Western Liang. Yu City could provide the right support with 100,000 troops on active duty, however they were too far away.
- Ying Shu Xie is Hua Zhu Yu’s male identity when she was a general in the Hua army. Ying Shu Xie is also known as Silver Faced Asura.
- Tai Xiao Si is one of HZY’s personal guards when she was a general. He is the fourth one known as ‘Little 4th’
- Tian Ya Ming Yue (The Bright Moon at the End of the World) sword is the sword that Ying Shu Xie is known to use
- Zhui Dian (Chasing Lightning) horse – the horse that Ying Shu Xie is known to ride
Finally got some time to translate since its Fall break~~~