Hua Zhu Yu indeed made great contributions in this battle. If it wasn’t for her leading the Hu Battalion to launch an attack on the Northern Army’s camp, this battle could not have come to an end so quickly. However, that did not change the fact that she had violated military law. She had disregarded a military command on the battlefield, creating confusion among the troops and disrupting the battle formation. This not only allowed Xiao Yin to rescue Wen Wan but also resulted in the successful retreat of the Northern Army.
As a former general, she was aware of the severity of her actions. She dared not carry resentment if she were to be punished but if it was meted out by Ji Feng Li she couldn’t help feeling indignant.
The other commanders and officers knew that Hua Zhu Yu committed a serious military offense this time so no one dared to plead for her. But the General had unexpectedly given such a suggestion.
“General, Commander Bao has made significant contributions. This commander is willing to receive the 30 planks on his behalf!” a commander said as he stepped forward and knelt on the ground.
“This commander is also willing to receive punishment on his behalf!” another commander stepped forward and pronounced.
These two had fought along with Hua Zhu on the battlefield and couldn’t bear to let her suffer punishment alone.
“Is Commander Bao not able to withstand 30 planks?” Ji Feng Li coldly questioned and the camp turned deadly silent.
“The both of you don’t need to do this. I alone can receive the 30 planks!” Hua Zhu Yu stepped forward and said with conviction, “General please give the order!”
Hesitantly, Wang Yu knitted his brows and glanced at Ji Feng Li. “Lord Chancellor, you ought to give the order.”
Ji Feng Li’s gaze was fixed on Hua Zhu Yu. He only saw a pair of deep black eyes and a cold handsome complexion.
The air was strained with tension. After a long silence, Ji Feng Li finally spoke. “Commander Bao!”
“Yes!” Hua Zhu Yu cupped her hands in a fist and knelt down on the floor.
“Commander Bao disregarded military order, disrupting the battle. He should be dealt with according to military regulations. However, taking into account his accomplishments during this battle, he shall be excused from the severe punishment but must still be disciplined,” Ji Feng Li said in a light, indifferent voice. After a slight pause, he continued, “The 30 planks can be exempted but he shall be tied to the post for two days as a warning to others (who dare defy military order).”
In the end she did not escape punishment. However this was already the lightest of punishments. For a man with martial skills this was nothing. But she was still a woman and although it was nothing compared to the 30 planks, it was still somewhat difficult for her to swallow this shame.
“This commander willingly accept punishment!” Hua Zhu Yu indifferently said with her head bowed.
Ji Feng Li stood and walked up to Hua Zhu Yu. His dark eyes faintly swept across her face before he quickly left the tent.
Wang Yu and the other commanders silently let out a sigh of relief. The two commanders who had pleaded on her behalf quickly came over and said, “ At least you’re exempt from getting flogged. Lord Chancellor is truly frightening when he’s angry.”
Wang Yu lightly coughed and said, “Carry out the order!” Two soldiers entered and escorted Hua Zhu Yu out of the main camp and tied her to the wooden post.
Hua Zhu Yu had spent the previous night traveling through Eastern Yan and Northern Kingdom. She then took part in the battle as soon as she rejoined the Southern Army and earlier, she had been pacing outside of Jin Se’s camp for some time. Now exhaustion was settling in and she could feel the aching pain exuding from the wounds all over her body. It was fortunate she was exempted from getting flogged. Even she was uncertain if she could take it with her present condition. Furthermore, summer has long since passed so she wouldn’t have to suffer in the burning heat for 2 whole days.
During this public punishment the Hu Batallion would come visit her every now and then. Though they did not understand why she violated military law, they still respected her as one of their own. They brought her food and water but Hua Zhu Yu only dared take a few sips. Tied up like this, if she were to drink too much she didn’t have the convenience to visit the latrine.
The present weather was ever-changing. By noon the following day, the northern winds had picked up speed, violently gusting through the lands.
Soon thereafter, Hua Zhu Yu felt drops of cold flakes upon her skin. She lifted her head up towards the skies covered in white clouds. It appears to be the first snowfall of the season. It began as small, trifling flurries of snow which instantly condensed into droplets of water upon contact with the ground. Gradually, the snow fell in larger flakes, like a white butterfly hovering in the air. Despite the falling snow, she faced the skies, allowing it to land on her face and blanket the depths of her heart.
The first snowfall of the season came unexpectedly.
Soon, Hua Zhu Yu’s body was covered in a thin layer of snow. She lowered her eyes to look at the blanket of snow that had completely covered the ground. She could feel the coldness attacking her body and she couldn’t help but tremble slightly. Even her teeth began to chatter involuntarily. She employed her internal force to keep the coldness at bay.
A few soldiers of the Hu battalion came by and placed a rain cloak over her shoulders. They then went inside and implored Wang Yu to release Hua Zhu Yu. But the order was already given and Wang Yu could not retract them even if he felt sorry for Hua Zhu Yu.
Standing in the cold, facing the onslaught of beating wind, Hua Zhu Yu was utterly exhausted and hungry. Her body was full of wounds and the pain was numbing.
She intended to employ her internal force to break free from the ropes. In any case, she already committed a violation, what’s the harm with adding another? She had no intentions of dying in the cold like this.
But suddenly she heard footsteps slowly approaching. She pried her eyes open and gazed in that direction, only to see a pair of black boots coming into view, step by step, until they stopped ten steps away from her.
“Why did Lord Chancellor come? To watch me freeze to death?” With the sight of Ji Feng Li, all the pain and coldness seem to have disappeared, replaced with a boiling enmity.
She wanted to flash a smile but her face seemed to have frozen stiff and she could only look up at him through lashes frosted with snow.
With a white fur coat enveloping his tall figure he silently stood there in the midst of the snow. He did not answer and remained staring at her quietly. Those deep dark eyes of his made it hard for her to see through them.
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Hua Zhu Yu slightly shivered. A sliver of inexplicable confusion came over her as she was at a loss of what to do under his intent gaze.
Without a word, he withdrew a fan hidden in his sleeves and launched it in her direction.
Hua Zhu Yu was caught by surprise. What did he want to do, kill her right here?
The fan spun a full rotation in the air, swirling alongside the falling snow. Moments later, the ropes binding Hua Zhu Yu had been cut loose.
Ji Feng Li retrieved his fan and suddenly removed his coat and placed it over Hua Zhu Yu. She could feel the warmth of his body still lingering on the coat as it enveloped her. This kind of warmth was something she longed for in her dreams, a kind of warmth that made one reluctant to part.
The corners of her lips suddenly lifted in a ridiculing smile that spread to the depths of her eyes, radiant yet chilling.
Without a word Ji Feng Li had cut the ropes and now he’s even giving her his coat. What exactly did this mean? Was he taking pity on her?
“You can return to your camp,” he indifferently said before turning to leave.
“Your things, I don’t need them!” Hua Zhu Yu lifted her arms and flung the coat which rotated in the air before falling to the ground.
From a distance, Ji Feng Li turned around and silently met her gaze.
All around was complete silence. Against the white backdrop, they stood there amidst the falling snow.
He remained silent.
And so did she.
The snow continued to silently descend without a sound, obscuring his tall figure.
Standing there in the snow against the roaring wind, Hua Zhu Yu’s face had soon gone numb from the cold. She wanted to quickly leave this place but it had slipped her mind that she’s been tied here for over 2 hours. As soon as she tried to stand, her legs quickly gave way and she fell to the ground.
Ji Feng Li hastily went over to her side. His hands reach out but suddenly stopped midway as though something had crossed his mind. Unsettled, he quickly turned to leave, not even bothering to pick up his coat off the ground.
Seeing him leave in a hurry, Hua Zhu Yu quickly tried to get up and ask, “Where is she? Has she waken?” Jin Se should’ve gain conscious by now. Hua Zhu Yu can only have peace of mind as long as Jin Se was alright.
Ji Feng Li’s footsteps came to an abrupt stop. He turned around and looked at her, his eyes sparked with a burning fire.
“Do you like Rong Si?” he asked in a voice as clear and cold as the falling snow.
Hua Zhu Yu was slightly taken aback by his question. He hadn’t asked why or how she was acquainted with Jin Se. He wanted to know if she liked Rong Si or not.
Hua Zhu Yu knew that Ji Feng Li was aware she had ignored the military command on the battlefield all for the sake of rescuing Jin Se from the Northern Army. How could a devious man such as himself think nothing of it. He must’ve assumed she had fallen for Jin Se.
However, Hua Zhu Yu didn’t know why Jin Se was with Ji Feng Li or if he was aware of Jin Se’s real identity. How should she respond? If she said no, he probably wouldn’t believe her.
Standing there silently as the snow continued to fall, Hua Zhu Yu was hesitant, uncertain of what to say.
The wind became more urgent and pressing yet Ji Feng Li stood there, patiently waiting for her answer.
In the end, she smiled and replied, “Yes, I like her!” Naturally, she liked Jin Se.
“Why?” he questioned in a low, cold voice as his hands seized hers in a tight grip.
Why he asks?
Hua Zhu Yu felt it was laughable. She looked up, straight into his eyes and coldly replied, “I’ve said it once before, I don’t have a broken sleeve.”
As though scalded by her response, Ji Feng Li quickly let go of her hand.
Against the white backdrop of falling snow, his beautiful face was pale as the corners of his lips tugged in a cold, icy smile.
His whole body exuded with callousness yet his dark eyes were slightly tinged with sorrow as he gazed at Hua Zhu Yu.
The person before him said he was not a broken sleeve yet had provoked himself to become one.
At that moment he had a strong urge to strangle Hua Zhu Yu but he quickly turnt to leave.
“Is she awake?” Hua Zhu Yu asked again.
“Don’t forget that your punishment isn’t over. You are confined for 2 days!” Ji Feng Li coldly announced.
Two days was not long and all she did during that time was sleep. On the 3rd day, she quickly left to find Jin Se.
At this time the guards stationed outside Jin Se’s tent did not stop Hua Zhu Yu. They went inside to report then escorted her in.
Jin Se’s tent was very elegant and feminine, however it was filled with a strong smell of medicine. On the bed covered with silk drapes, Ji Feng Li was sitting on the edge talking to the person lying there. Upon seeing her enter, he frowned and ordered, “Everyone can leave.”
A maidservant brewing medicine on the side quickly paid her respects to Ji Feng Li and left along with the guards.
Ji Feng Li walked up to Hua Zhu Yu and faintly said, “You can see her but only this once. She will soon become this Chancellor’s wife and you are prohibited from seeing her again.”
His eyes, calm and deep, faintly glanced at Hua Zhu Yu before he quickly left the tent.
At that moment, the tent had become completely silent.
After standing there for some time, Hua Zhu Yu walked over to the bed and lifted the red drapes.