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Instantly, Hua Zhu Yu fell backwards towards the entrance of the passageway. In that moment, she saw prince Na Lan rushing towards her, his mask flashing with a cold glint under the candlelight. But compared to the coldness his eyes held, it was merely insignificant.
Standing closest to Hua Zhu Yu and Huangfu Wu Shuang was a Feng Yun soldier. Seeing the turn of events, he withdrew his sword and brandished it towards Hua Zhu Yu. The sword, overflowing with viciousness and speed, was aiming directly for Hua Zhu Yu’s thigh.
Horrified, Hua Zhu Yu quickly tried to pull her leg back when a loud roar resounded, “Stop!”
The sword in Ji Feng Li’s hand intercepted the soldier’s. At that same instant, Hua Zhu Yu and Huangfu Wu Shuang had fallen into the passageway with the stone slab closing quickly behind them.
Ji Feng Li’s hand reached out but he was a step too late. He was only able to grab onto a corner of her clothes, tearing it as the entrance was tightly sealed. All that remained was a piece of her clothing within the palm of his hand, a blinding red.
His chest throbbed with pain as if there was a force screaming to break free from within.
He pushed the soldier in front of him aside to examine the stone slab. When he bent down to take a look, a mouthful of blood rushed up his throat and spurted out on the ground in a grisly red spatter.
“Master! What’s wrong? ”The soldier beside Ji Feng Li tried to help him up.
Na Lan sighed and lamented, “You haven’t completely recovered yet you were fighting so vigorously just now. It would be strange if your internal organs aren’t injured!”
Ji Feng Li tried to suppress the pain from his internal injury and wiped the blood from his lips. He continued to examine the stone slab which appeared solid, not a single gap could be spotted. He then stood up and turned to look at the screen. He fumbled around and finally found the button that Huangfu Wu Shuang had pressed. He did not expect this screen to conceal such a mechanism. But no matter how many times he pressed it, the stone slab remained in place, motionless. Undoubtedly, it was a mechanism that would only work once and no more.
Under the mask, his pair of phoenix eyes were cold as ice.
“Men, no matter what method you use, pry open this stone slab! Na Lan, take a group of people and conduct a search throughout the Imperial Palace. Dig underground and see if the passageway can be found. On the other hand, you,” he pointed at a general of the Feng Yun troops and ordered, “Go see the retired Emperor Yan quickly, see if he knows where this secret passageway leads to.”
“Yes!” the young general clasped his fists and answered.
Ji Feng Li callously gave the command but only Na Lan Xue was able to discern the slight tremor in his voice.
Hua Zhu Yu could feel the air whistling past her ears before her feet finally landed on solid ground. Overhead, the stone slab had closed and the passageway was engulfed in complete darkness. Fortunately, Huangfu Wu Shuang’s jade crown was inlaid with a night pearl which gave off a warm glow, illuminating the space around them.
Hua Zhu Yu coldly pushed Huangfu Wu Shaung’s arm away and remarked, “It’s quite astute of you to build a secret passageway in your palace, you sure thought of everything.” Huangfu Wu Shuang was truly prepared. With this hidden passageway, he could escape from his palace successfully. She originally wanted to escape as well so she didn’t mind taking this route. Recalling that man’s words just moments ago, she was well aware that he would not let her go easily.
Huangfu Wu Shuang removed the night pearl from his crown. Looking at Hua Zhu Yu, he said with a smile, “Without astute consideration, we would’ve fallen into the hands of that little prince from Yue Zhi. We may not have even lived to see the sun the next day.”
The passageway was both dark and cold. Holding the cloak closer to her body, Hua Zhu Yu could smell a faint scent from it, reminding her of the prince of Yue Zhi and his eyes moments before she fell into the secret passageway, causing her heart to unconsciously tighten.
Who was he to care so much? In a flash, he had blocked the sword for her.
“What are you thinking?” Huangfu Wu Shuang raised his hand and brought the night pearl to her face.
Hua Zhu Yu walked past him and took the lead in moving forward. “I was wondering where this passageway lead out to.”
Holding the pearl behind her, Huangfu Wu Shuang said as he caught up with her, “Originally, the entrance to this passageway was located in the rockeries of the garden but I thought that it was not convenient to escape from there so I had a new passageway dug from my palace hall. This passageway leads out to a dry well outside the Imperial Palace.”
“Does anyone else know about this secret passageway? If they know where it leads to, they will surely stop us there,” Hua Zhu Yu said.
Huangfu Wu Shuang narrowed his eyes and lightly said, “Someone does know but once they find out about it, we would be long gone.”
They stopped talking and proceeded silently along the passageway. The glow of the pearl was faint so they could not move quickly. About half an hour later, they came to a stop. The path ahead of them was blocked while overhead there was a huge stone barring an opening as glimmers of moonlight seeped through the cracks.
Huangfu Wu Shuang held up the pearl and said, “We’re here!” He went ahead and ran his hands around the wall and the stone immediately moved aside. Utilizing their lightness skills, they jumped up to an empty well that had long dried up, sprouting with weeds. The skies were still dark save for the glimmers of starlight.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
They jumped out of the dry well and looked around to discover that they had arrived at a secluded alleyway. There was no one in sight.
Huangfu Wu Shuang grabbed Hua Zhu Yu’s hand tightly and lowered his head, his eyes pleading as he said, “Follow me.”
Hua Zhu Yu coldly tried to shake off his hand. Following the faint light of the pearl, she looked up at him and noticed his slightly pale face. She always took him for an immature juvenile. He had said he liked her more than once but she just took it as a joke and never took it to heart. But after everything that has happened, perhaps he was sincere and telling the truth. But even if it was true, she could not return his feelings.
She had attempted to assassinate him all so that her father would have to make an appearance, but for that brief moment she really wanted to kill him. She hated his ruthlessness, hated that he killed Ji Feng Li, hated that he killed her baby. Although she later found out that it really wasn’t him that harmed the baby, her heart was still engulfed in hatred. She won’t take action against him again, but she wasn’t going to follow him either.
“I’m not going with you!” Hua Zhu Yu said and tried to shake off his hand with all her might but he refused to let go. She knitted her brows and pulled off a hairpin in her hair and stabbed at his wrist. The dull hairpin stabbed into his skin drawing blood but he ignored the pain and continued to firmly hold onto Hua Zhu Yu’s hand, not letting go.
“Let’s go,” Huangfu Wu Shuang insisted as his eyes narrowed, his pupils darkening.
Hua Zhu Yu smiled indifferently and said, “Huangfu Wu Shuang, perhaps before I truly did care for you, cared for you an innocent child who didn’t know better. But now, those feelings are gone. You should quickly go, the whole city is searching for you. If you don’t go quickly, you will not be able to escape.” She pried his fingers off one by one with her free hand and turned around to leave.
Huangfu Wu Shuang remained standing there, silently gazing at her departing figure, watching the black cloak flutter in the wind, revealing the red cloth beneath, wrapped around her slender waist. At that moment, he hated that he couldn’t rush over to her and seize her waist, chastising her for uttering such cruel words.
In the end, he could only withdraw his gaze. At the moment, he knew the precarious situation he was in. In his heart, he was aware that he didn’t have the power nor the strength to take care of her. Turning towards the opposite direction, he began to proceed along the desolate street as a feeling of emptiness and powerlessness enveloped him.
In a daze, he continued to walk. He had lost his throne, he had even lost her! His eyes were bleak as the moonlight above.
He recalled those moments when she was by his side, her every smile, every frown, every expression of anger. Huangfu Wu Shuang’s heart was gripped with a despairing pain and resentment as he spitefully said, “Hua Zhu Yu, Xiao Bao’er, who asked you to get close to me, help me, care for me? In the end you abandon me. You and I are both dead chess pieces. You want to forsake everything? Wait till the next life!”
Through the branches of trees along the street, the moonlight enshrouded his handsome face in a dark shadow.
Hua Zhu Yu proceeded from the dark alley and tightened the cloak around herself. In her mind rose the image of those eyes, flashing with alarm and pain, as she fell backwards into the passageway. Unconsciously, her heart tightened in pain.
Why did the prince of Yue Zhi treat her so? Why?
Why did his eyes make her heart ache inexplicably?
Was it him?
Her thoughts startled her and she leaned against a wall trying to recall.
Recollection was a means of tormenting oneself, the more one tried to forget, the more intensely one would remember, yet the more one tried to remember, the recollection slips away, difficult to grasp onto.
Scene by scene, Hua Zhu Yu tried to recall the events that occurred that day on the execution grounds.
That day she thought Lang Bing and Tang Yu would surely come to the execution grounds and make a commotion to take him away so she had bribed many officials but in the end no one came. She reluctantly had to go forward to stab him a few times in order to seal his acupoint and breathing to fake his death so he could be taken down. But in the end she had stabbed him to death.
Thinking back carefully, things couldn’t be as simple as they appeared.
How can someone like him willingly die? Lan Bing, Tong Shou, Tang Yu, why did they not come to the execution grounds to save him? Unless he already had a plan to escape safe and sound.
Thinking up to this point, Hua Zhu Yu’s whole body trembled. But it was impossible! She herself had felt his breathing stop and his body lose warmth!
Hua Zhu Yu carefully recalled every detail of that day and her mind suddenly converged on that cup of wine the Third Princess had brought.
Huangfu Yan was deeply in love with Ji Feng Li. On that day, she went to the execution ground with wine to send him off. Although she appeared somber, she was not overcome with despair and heartache. It was not until Ji Feng Li was stabbed to death did she suddenly cry uncontrollably.
That cup of wine must have been laced with a drug to feign death!
Huangfu Yan must not have expected her to stab Ji Feng Li to death so she suddenly bursted out crying hysterically. She even ran up to her to make trouble.
But perhaps Ji Feng Li wasn’t stabbed to death by her, perhaps the drug took effect ahead of time.
If that’s the case, maybe he’s not dead afterall!
He must not be dead!
She suddenly got a hold of herself and starting running.
Along the streets, a team of Feng Yun troops passed by. Strictly abiding by the military law, they did not plunder, burn nor steal.
“As expected, General you’re here!” Two figures swiftly descended from the roof, appearing in front of Hua Zhu Yu. It was Ping and Tai.
“This place is dangerous, General quickly leave here!” Ping said in a low voice.
Hua Zhu Yu glanced at them and concurred, “Alright, let’s go! But how did you find this place?”
“Our spies in the palace informed us that you and Huangfu Wu Shuang fell into a secret passageway. After that, the Feng Yun troops split into two teams and left the palace. We guessed they knew where the passageway led to. Looking at the direction they headed, we took a shortcut and arrived here. They’ll be here any minute. General, quickly follow us!”
“Tai, let me ask you this, in what circumstances will a drug take effect before its designated onset?” Hua Zhu Yu suddenly asked.
Tai pondered for a moment and slowly replied, “It depends on what drug it is.”
“A drug used to feign death,” Hua Zhu Yu slowly said.
Tai frowned and said: “That’s an extremely rare drug. I’ve never seen it before. It slows the body’s respiration and pulse to an undetectable point. If the user is injured, the flow of energy and blood will cause the drug to speed up its effect.”
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart instantly shook. At the same moment, the sound of horse hooves were getting louder and the approaching group were headed straight for the alley.