The chains shackling him bore into his shoulder blades and pinned against his shan zhong acupoint, restraining his movements and sealing his internal strength altogether. No longer able to employ his martial skills, Ji Feng Li was no different from ruins.
To a martial artist, the loss of his martial skills was a matter that was even worse than death. Without deep hatred, very few people will resort to such vicious means.
Hua Zhu Yu did not expect Huangfu Wu Shuang to be so cruel and ruthless.
She still remembered that day when she first entered the palace and had played a game of chess with Huangfu Wu Shuang. She once said that you could see through a person by watching how he plays chess. She had said that each and every one of his moves were swift and decisive. His breadth of mind was deep and profound. If one day he becomes the Emperor, he will certainly be a great one. She had said those words assuming that the moves he used were his. Unexpectedly, he had been using Ji Feng Li’s gameplay so she had actually been praising Ji Feng Li.
When he heard her praise, he indignantly picked up a chess piece and the match which was originally in a deadlock, had fallen into chaos and disorder as he sneered, “No matter how great your chess skills are, you cannot avoid my fatal strike!”
It was then that Hua Zhu Yu realized how much Huangfu Wu Shuang despised Ji Feng Li. Could this be that fatal strike he was referring to?
Resorting to such extremes, he must know Ji Feng Li was a skilled martial artist.
Hua Zhu Yu suddenly understood why Ji Feng Li had been hiding his martial skills all this time. Perhaps he had soon realize such a day would come. He probably wanted to leave a path of retreat for himself so that when he was detained he would still have an opportunity to escape.
It can be said that Ji Feng Li had carefully planned everything.
If he hadn’t saved her on the battlefield, he would not have revealed his martial skills and perhaps he would not have fallen to such a state. It could be said that his present situation, more or less had something to do with her.
As she came to this thought, Hua Zhu Yu did not know where to place her eyes. Ji Feng Li was in a very wretched state. His prison uniform was blotched with blood and the metal shackles binding his feet reflected off the rays of light, illuminating his face that was pale in complexion.
Like a fine needle, the light pricked her eyes.
Quickly averting her gaze, Hua Zhu Yu turned towards the corner of the bed. In the silent prison cell, she could hear the sound of her own breathing as a strange feeling arose within. It was seemingly pain and despair taking root in her heart, slowly consuming her.
She tried to suppress those feelings and after some time, she finally dared to look back at him.
Beneath the dim light, Ji Feng Li was lying on his side, motionless on the bed. His long hair was unbound, scattering across his face, covering half of it.
“Ji Feng Li, His Majesty came to see you! Quickly get up and pay your respect!” the prison official coldly yelled, his bearing full of haughtiness. If this was before, he probably wouldn’t even dare to breathe too heavily when facing this Left Chancellor.
Ji Feng Li’s lashes trembled slightly before his eyelids rose, revealing a pair of lucid, beautiful eyes. Even in this state, he still had the power to captivate one’s attention.
He looked over and beneath the faint light, his beautiful face was exceedingly pale. As though he was enduring a lot of pain, his forehead was dotted with beads of sweat. However, his gaze was calm and steady as he faced Huangfu Wu Shuang, void of any inkling of fear as he smiled faintly.
“So it is Your Majesty that has arrived. I was just thinking that so many days had gone by yet no one dared to come and visit. Your Majesty, please forgive me for I cannot pay respect.” With a slight movement of his arm, the chains binding him shook, colliding against one another and against his bones.
The striking clatters made Hua Zhu Yu feel as though her own shoulder was in pain but Ji Feng Li only slightly frowned. Beside the beads of sweat on his forehead, his lips was curved in a peerless smile, as thought flaunting that his flesh and bones were as tough as stone.
“Oh? Bao gong gong also came,” Ji Feng Li remarked in a tone that was light as passing wind.
With difficulty, Hua Zhu Yu faced Ji Feng Li and saw his smile, laced with ridicule and disdain. He seemed to have long guessed that she would come along with Huangfu Wu Shuang. He narrowed his eyes and asked with a smile, “ Now that I’m in such a state, I wonder if Bao gong gong is satisfied?”
This time there was only indifference and estrangement in his voice. It was no longer that gentle voice that called her Bao’Er.
His whole body gave off a cold and distant aura, invoking a sense of fear in one’s heart.
Hua Zhu Yu felt a tightness in her chest that made it hard for her to breathe. She clenched her fists and tried to show a calm smile as she said, “That’s right, to be able to see Left Chancellor in such a state, naturally I’m happy.”
Her goal was finally achieved but why was she feeling this way. It was like there were thousands of ants nibbling at her heart.
Ji Feng Li suddenly threw his head back laughing. Hua Zhu Yu had never seen him laugh like that. His laughter was radiant like a flower blossoming in the night, charming and splendid.
Huangfu Wu Shuang grew annoyed and coldly asked, “Ji Feng Li, what are you laughing for?”
Ji Feng Li’s laughter slowly receded and he replied, “Nothing, merely laughing at myself.”
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s eyes narrowed and he walked up to Ji Feng Li. “Xiao Bao’Er, it seems that the Left Chancellor has yet to pay respect, go over and assist him!”
Hua Zhu Yu was alarmed at the sudden order. She knew that Huangfu Wu Shuang would take advantage of this time to torture and humilate Ji Feng Li but she didn’t expect him to push the task onto her. Trying to suppress the turbulent emotions inside, she slowly stepped forward.
Ji Feng Li’s eyes condensed as he saw Hua Zhu Yu approaching. His sharp gaze was so cold that she felt a chill enveloping her whole body.
She walked up to him and with a wicked grin she grabbed his collar. Their eyes met at a distant close enough to see into each other’s soul.
Hua Zhu Yu looked at Ji Feng Li’s beautiful elegant face, his distinct brows, and deep phoenix eyes hidden beneath those long thick lashes. She was momentarily at a loss as she looked into his eyes which seemed to have the power to draw her in.
“Xiao Bao’Er….” Huangfu Wu Shuang called in a cold voice.
Awakening from her daze, Hua Zhu Yu raised her voice and viciously said, “Ji Feng Li, you also have such a day? It’s truly refreshing!”
She violently pulled Ji Feng Li and he immediately fell off the bed.
The chains on his body and shook and pulled. Ji Feng Li had to endure the pain as he took in a sharp breath, cold sweat dotting his forehead. He laid on the ground look straight up at Hua Zhu Yu, unblinking.
“Good… good.…” he uttered as he stared at Hua Zhu Yu, his eyes calm as stagnant water.
Hua Zhu Yu welcomed Ji Feng Li’s gaze with a cruel smile playing on her lips.
Ji Feng Li’s chest violently heaved as blood spilled from the corners of his lips. His shirt was also stained with fresh blood from the wounds on his shoulder blade yet he remained calmly smiling.
Looking at him, Hua Zhu Yu went over to grab his collar and pull him up. But in that moment, the smell of fresh blood and the frenzy clattering of the chains made her feel uncomfortable. Ever since she started taking the medicine, it’s been a while since she felt nauseous. But no matter how hard she tried to suppress the urge, she couldn’t. She quickly ran out of the cell. With the support of the wall, she leaned over and gagged.
“Xiao Bao’Er, what’s wrong?” Huangfu Wu Shuang followed behind her and asked in a worried tone as he patted her back. His voice was exceedingly gentle, in the eyes of others it was truly affectionate.
Hua Zhu Yu rested one hand against the wall while the other stroked down her chest. “This prison is suffocating, moreover…. there is also…. the smell of blood…”
In the dark prison cell, Ji Feng Li remarked contemptuously, “What’s the matter, a person accustomed to seeing blood such as Bao gong gong is actually afraid of blood?”
“Your Majesty…this place is stifling…. this servant wishes to step out for air,” Hua Zhu Yu said with her head lowered. Her complexion was pale as snow and the uncomfortable feeling in her chest hadn’t yet ceased. “Your Majesty, how about we return?”
Huangfu Wu Shuang narrowed his eyes and replied, “Alright, if Xiao Bao’Er feels uncomfortable then zhen will accompany you back.”
Huangfu Wu Shuang turned to the guards and ordered, “Guard carefully, if anything happens, zhen will have your heads!” He then turned around and extended a hand to support Hua Zhu Yu.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
“Your Majesty, no need! This servant can walk on my own!” Hua Zhu Yu said as she avoided his helping hand.
“Even so zhen wants to help you!” Huangfu Wu Shuang stubbornly insisted childishly.
Hua Zhu Yu sighed and heard the prison cell door close with a thud, making her slightly tremble as she allowed Huangfu Wu Shuang support her out.
Lying on the ground, Ji Feng Li watched as Hua Zhu Yu and Huangfu Wu Shuang’s figures departed along the pathway until the iron doors finally closed and the smile on his lips slowly withdrew.
When they arrived at the prison, it was sunset. Now that they were leaving, it was already nighttime.
Huangfu Wu Shuang got onto the carriage and Hua Zhu Yu rode her horse beside it.
Huangfu Wu Shuang left the palace in disguise so their party was not too ostentatious. Though there weren’t many guards accompanying them, the few that did were all highly skilled. They surrounded the carriage in protection as it left the Ministry of Justice and entered the bustling main streets.
Since it was almost New Year’s Eve, the night market was crowded with people. Lights and the sound of music filled the air.
Hua Zhu Yu still remembered that day when Ji Feng Li returned in triumph and walked down this same street. The people had filled the streets to welcome him with glory. Yet a mere few days later he was imprisoned. At the height of heaven, he fell to hell.
But the people of Yu City were unaware of the changing tides within the dark palace. Everyone was engrossed in the festivities of New Years.
Riding down the street, all she saw were smiling faces but Hua Zhu Yu didn’t know why she could only see that dark and dreary prison cell before her.
She began to feel confused and uncertain, thinking that she shouldn’t hate him. Hating him had not brought a single day of peace, instead it made her cold, unable to distinguish….
Just as their group was proceeding, a carriage headed in the opposite direction was passing by. The moment the carriage passed Hua Zhu Yu, the driver suddenly jumped over and charged at Hua Zhu Yu with his sword in hand.
The assassin was highly skilled and moments later the sword had quickly approached Hua Zhu Yu’s neck.
The guards tried to go help her but another assassin jumped out and pushed them back with his powerful internal strength.
The sword gleamed underneath the moonlight as Hua Zhu Yu quickly leaned back to dodge. As soon as moved out of the way, the sword came back swinging.
Seeing a fight breakout, the pedestrians quickly moved out of the way and the streets became chaotic. Hua Zhu Yu drew her sword to block the oncoming assault. The collision of the two swords reflected the light in all directions and Hua Zhu Yu cold see the opponent’s sword gleaming in an indigo radiance.
There was poison!
The assassin’s sword was laced with poison, he clearly wanted to take her life.
Hua Zhu Yu looked up, straight into the eyes of the assassin whose faced was masked behind a black cloth.
Indeed, it was Tang Yu.
A comrade she once fought alongside on the battlefield now wanted to take her life. Tang Yu’s poison was deady and it was hard to find an antidote. As she thought of this, Hua Zhu Yu felt a cold chill run down her spine. If she hadn’t avoid his attack in time, she feared she would’ve already lost her life.
She did not dare to act carelessly. She tightened her grip on her sword as she fought Tang Yu. Before long the two of them had exchanged countless moves.
Hua Zhu Yu continued to dodge while Tang Yu persistently attacked. He was immersed in a murderous air as if he wouldn’t give up until he took her life tonight.
“Hurry up, you guys want to die, quickly protect chief Bao!” Huangfu Wu Shuang alighted the carriage and shouted from within the circle of protection of his guards.
After receiving the order, a number of guards rushed over to encircle Tang Yu and temporarily block his advancing attacks.
Hua Zhu Yu urged her horse towards Huangfu Wu Shuang and said, “Your Majesty, let’s go!”
Those guards weren’t going to be able to stop Tang Yu for long so they must quickly leave.
Huangfu Wu Shuang nodded and jumped onto the horse behind her. Steering towards the direction of the palace, Hua Zhu Yu rode the horse with swift urgency, leaving the battle behind as the fighting outcries grew increasingly faint in contrast with the wind whisking by her ears. The streets lights quickly departed from view but her heart was becoming increasingly heavy….
The night was dark as ink.
After taking the medicine, Hua Zhu Yu left Dan Hong’s Yong Tang Palace and headed east towards the back gates. Tonight, she did not bring An Xiao’Er along but quietly left the palace on her own. After determining that no one was following her, she employed her internal strength and entered the small house.
Inside, the flickering candlelight projected the shadow of a figure upon the wall. Ping Lao Dao was currently reading and only the sound of pages being turned was heard within the peaceful room. Upon seeing movement, Ping Lao Dao suddenly raised his head and saw that it was Hua Zhu Yu who arrived. With a hint of surprise, he warmly welcomed her and said, “ The night is already so late, how come the General came in person? If there is something urgent, just let someone pass on the message.”
Hua Zhu Yu stepped forward and asked, “Where is Kang?”
“Resting in the room,” Ping Lao Da answered as he placed the book down and went into the room to call for Kang Lao San.
Kang Lao San was deep in sleep so having been awakened suddenly, he was irritated. When he noticed that Hua Zhu Yu had arrived, his eyes brightened as he said, “General came?” As soon as the words left his mouth, he pouted and continued, “Unfortunately, Tai is not here so there’s not enough people to play ma diao.”
Hua Zhu Yu coldly snorted. “At this time of life and death, you still want to play ma diao?”
Kang Lao San’s expression stiffened and he said, “Isn’t the Left Chancellor imprisoned?”
Ping Lao Da glanced at Kang and replied, “This is only the beginning.”
Hua Zhu Yu nodded and proceeded to ask, “Ping, have you gathered the Orphan Army?”
Ping Lao Da nodded.
“Today I have a task to give you. You cannot disclose this to anyone, including even An and Tai. Ping, as soon as possible, send someone to the eastern lands. Verify if Tai’s troops are truly from Wang Yi. Kang, you go to Liangzhou personally. That day I had buried the Marquis’ body in a desolate area outside of the city. Originally I was going to bring him back after our revenge was completed. Take a tri there for me and bring his remains back. Remember, the Marquis’ right arm is broken. Don’t make a mistake!”
The two of them were shocked but still nodded in assent. Kang Lao San hesitantly asked, “General, why are you doing this now?”
“There is something else as well. Ping, send people to secretly look for the Left Chancellor’s wife. Remember, once there is news of her, immediately report back to me,” Hua Zhu Yu sternly ordered.
Ping and Kang suddenly felt that the young general who once commanded the army of thousands of men had returned.
“General, why employ the Orphan Army? Why not let An quietly take the the Yulin Army to investigate. That way the presence of the Orphan Army won’t be revealed.” Kang Lao San asked.
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head. “Although it would be more convenient to use the Yulin Army, our target is too large, moreover….”
Having heard her orders, Ping Lao Dao’s brows furrowed and he said, “General you’re suspicious that things are not as we have investigated but….”
Hua Zhu Yu nodded. “Ping, meanwhile I will quietly instill a few men of the Orphan Army into the palace. I also want to bribe a few officials to handle matters in court. Remember, in the future, beside An’s people reporting to you, I will also send members of the Orphan Army.
The two men nodded in unison and Hua Zhu Yu entrusted them with a few more things. Seeing that it was getting very late, she quietly returned to the palace.