First off, I’d like to welcome and thank my new editor who goes by the name Otwentyfirst for editing this chapter! ????❤????Hopefully, with an editor now I can stick to the release schedule if not faster!
Ji Feng Li slowly finished the bowl of porridge and the maidservants quickly brought over another, yet he did not raise his chopsticks again, merely staring at it with a blank expression.
Lifting the curtain, Lan Bing and Tong Shou entered. Lan Bing was teasing Tong Shou yet he still carried the same imposing expression as always.
Taking their seats at the red sandalwood table, Lan Bing sighed and said, “Lord Chancellor, you handled tonight’s matters quite inappropriately, why must you refuse the marriage, that Third Princess…”
Li Feng Li glanced at Lan Bing and said, “What do you know!” He then raised his chopsticks and picked a few dishes to place in his mouth and slowly swallowed before coldly asking Tong Shou, “Where are you on the things I asked you to do?”
“Reporting to Lord Chancellor, everything has been arranged.” Tong Shou replied in a low voice.
“Great, Lan Bing, go settle things, we shall progress according to plan,” Ji Feng Li said with slightly narrowed eyes, seemingly unsettled by the hot rising steam emanating from the porridge.
“Assign more men to protect that person, his life must not be placed in danger,” Ji Feng Li instructed as he slowly rose and approached the window, extending his fingers to caress the epiphyllum on the window sill.
“Lord Chancellor…” a person that rarely spoke such as Tong Shou stood and in a low voice, asked, “Why not seize this opportunity to get rid of that person….”
The silent Ji Feng Li slowly turned around to face them, his pupils contracted before a look of indifference swept through them. A chill exuded from his entire body, like a sharp sword that was suddenly unsheathed.
“Tong Shou, since when did you become so talkative,” he stated in a languid voice.
Yet Tong Shou was frightened stiff, not daring to make a sound, even the muscles in the corners of his eyes froze, not blinking.
The night grew dreary yet the flowers upon the window sill were flourishing, releasing their fragrance in the room. Spreading out his fan, Ji Feng Li unhurriedly swept it back and forth, causing the flowers to lightly sway like wisps of smoke.
Behind the Qing Jiang Palace were endless forested mountains within which contained countless rare animals. Although the Emperor was well advanced in his age, he still enjoyed horse riding and archery. Each year he would host a hunting event in the mountains behind Qing Jiang Palace. The princes, royal family members, as well as important officials would accompany him. This year the Northern Crown Prince Xiao Yin as well as Eastern Yan’s Rui Wang were present so the Emperor was in even higher spirits.
People from the Northern Kingdom grew up on horseback and were highly skilled in riding and archery compared to those from Southern Kingdom. Although this was a well-known fact throughout the four kingdoms, the Southern Emperor still wanted to use the opportunity of the hunting event to challenge Xiao Yin. This meant that anyone who could ride and shoot were obligated to follow along.
The day before the event took place, guards were sent to the mountains to clear the fields and take care of any ferocious beasts.
In the early morning, the skies were bright and sunny.
The Emperor sat in his carriage surrounded by his escorts of Imperial guards as they made their way to the back mountains. Along the journey, the banners fluttered as carriage after carriage trudged forward.
Huangfu Wu Shuang and Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang followed behind the Emperor’s carriage, accompanied by a handful of guards. They wore tight-fitted outfits as they sat atop their horses, exuding a hint of heroic spirit. Since Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang’s legs were afflicted with ailment since young he had never ridden a horse before, however recently his legs had gotten better so he slowly began to learn riding and archery. But since he was still a novice, his face was slightly pale and tense as he sat upon his horse.
After an hour, they finally arrived at the hunting grounds in the back mountains. The Emperor stepped down from his carriage and mounted the horse brought over by an eunuch. He then turned around and gazed at the two princes following behind him. He smiled with raised brows and said, “Shang Er, your legs were weak since young, if you can hunt, that’s great, if not, sit by and enjoy the scenery!” Once he finished, his complexion turned solemn as he turned to face Huangfu Wu Shuang and coldly said, “Wu Shuang, everyday you’re out causing trouble, today let zhen witness your true skills!”
“Yes!” Huangfu Wu Shuang quickly voiced as he bowed.
Hua Zhu Yu followed behind Xiao Yin who was dressed in fitted purple robes that highlighted his wide shoulders and lean waist. Above in the skies, his gyrfalcon hovered with its pair of sharp, keen eyes while his four guards closely followed behind him.
Dou Qian Jin had yet to make an appearance as he had personal matters to attend to. Hua Zhu Yu guessed his ‘personal matters’ probably involved searching for Ying Shu Xie.
Ji Feng Li and the other officials were waiting with their accompanied Imperial guards for the signal to set out.
The shrill of the horn rose, lingering in the air, rendering the entire hunting ground silent in its wake. Everyone mounted their horses and the Commanding Imperial Guard led the group, clearing the path for the Emperor and his hundred or so army of guards and horses to enter the forest.
With a pull of his reins, Xiao Yin advanced forward. A soft sound was heard within the forest and the gyrfalcon instantly dove down while calling out. With a whistle, the arrow in Xiao Yin’s bow was released, striking down a deer. The gyrfalcon, which seemed to have keener senses than a hunting dog, had its head held high and chest pumped out as it stood atop the deer, leisurely pacing about as though flaunting that the first game was hunted by its master.
The Emperor appeared somewhat unhappy, there were so many Imperial guards behind him yet the first game was actually hunted by Xiao Yin.
Pointing at the gyrfalcon, Huangfu Wu Shuang asked with a smile, “Crown Prince Xiao, don’t know if this gyrfalcon is also regarded as game?”
Xiao Yin coldy humphed, “ Your Highness Huangfu, if you can hunt this gyrfalcon, this Crown Prince need not compete in this hunting match and shall admit defeat. I’ll even admit my Northern kingdom’s arrows aren’t a match for your Southern kingdom’s!”
“Really? Alright then, this prince shall give it a try!” Huangfu Wu Shuang took the arrow offered from the Imperial guard and placed it on his bow. His dark eyes narrowed as he aimed at the gyrfalcon and released the arrow.
Though Huangfu Wu Shuang’s martial arts could not be regarded as profound, his riding and shooting skills could be said to be better than most. Everyone was silent, somewhat nervous as they focused on Huangfu Wu Shuang’s arrow, earnestly hoping it could hit the gyrfalcon, crushing the Northern Crown Prince’s haughtiness. Even the Emperor’s gaze was fixed up ahead with rapt attention.
Yet Xiao Yin was not in the least bit nervous, his lips were even lifted in a faint cold smile. The four guards behind him were also calm and collected.
Hua Zhu Yu also knew that Huangfu Wu Shuang would undoubtedly lose. This gyrfalcon was no common falcon, if Huangfu Wu Shuang could hit it, it wouldn’t be a gyrfalcon raised by Xiao Yin.
Sure enough, the gyrfalcon was like its master, not in the least bit nervous as it leisurely paced about the deer. The moment Huangfu Wu Shuang released the arrow it instantly took flight, evading the arrow with ease. Seeing the arrow hit the ground, it raised its head and pumped out its chest, gazing at Huangfu Wu Shuang as though ridiculing his ordinary skills.
Huangfu Wu Shuang couldn’t help but become angry that even a small gyrfalcon would dare to mock him.
This time he placed three arrows on his bow and took aim. With the release of the bowstring, the arrows shot out with overwhelming force. Yet once again, the gyrfalcon easily evaded them. Da da da, the arrows struck a tree.
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s complexion instantly darkened. It should be noted that archery was his sole speciality.
Pulling the bowstring, he eagerly wished for another shot yet the Emperor coldly said, “Alright, that’s enough, no need to continue shooting!”
With a stern face, the Emperor said, “Go hunt, after 3 hours lets see how many you can catch.” Once he finished speaking, the Emperor pulled his reins and advanced forward with his group of Imperial guards.
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s face suddenly turned bleak. With knitted brows, Hua Zhu Yu watched him. In actuality, Huangfu Wu Shuang was just a child that wanted to show off his talent in front of his father yet the more he showed off, the stingier the Emperor was with his praises, unexpectedly causing his treatment of Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang to improve.
But that wasn’t to say that the Emperor doted on one and not the other. He was strict with Huangfu Wu Shuang because he had such high expectations of him. But Huangfu Wu Shuang merely wanted to be praised by his father.
Hua Zhu Yu could not help but shake her head and followed after Xiao Yin into the the hunting grounds.
Because they were being hunted, the animals in the forest were currently running wild in distress. A great number of arrows were unleashed as cries shook the skies. In the hunting grounds, noises continued to ring out across the hills and through the mountains, resonating through the thick forests.
Hua Zhu Yu simply followed behind Xiao Yin on her horse, marveling at the surrounding scenery. Xiao Yin’s entourage were full of experts and Hua Zhu Yu did not need to lend a hand.
After hunting for a while, Xiao Yin reined his horse to turn around and look at Hua Zhu Yu. With a smile he said, “Bao gong gong, why are you still standing there, hurry over and hunt.”
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to hunt, but within this forest she had to be cautious with every word and action.
Creasing his brows, Xiao Yin’s deep purple eyes displayed a trace of disappointment.
After the 3 hour mark, everyone assembled back at the initial location and their games were counted. In the end, it was Xiao Yin that hunted the most, then the Emperor’s guards, followed by Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang, then Huangfu Wu Shuang and finally Ji Feng Li and a few other officials who merely hunted two pheasants.
Having lost to Xiao Yin, the Emperor was not happy. Seeing that Huangfu Wu Shuang lost to Huangfu Wu Shang whose legs were handicapped, his complexion darkened as he coldly reprimanded, “Look at yourself, everyday you’re out messing around, then when you need to prove yourself, this is what you show. Look at Wu Shang, he’s only been learning to ride and shoot for a few days and has already surpassed you!”
Kneeling on the ground, Huangfu Wu Shuang had his head lowered, not daring to speak.
When the hunting match commenced, the sun was already setting in the west. Seeing this, the Emperor instructed for the camps to be set up. Soon dozens of camps were erected on the vacant grounds. The Emperor’s camp was situated at the center with Xiao Yin’s camp on the side and Huangfu Wu Shuang’s and Huangfu Wu Shang’s at the back while the officials’ and guards’ camps were dispersed around the Emperor’s like stars surrounding the moon.
In addition to the delicacies made by the Imperial Chefs, tonight’s meal included roasted pheasants and deer meat. By the time the night meal was finished, the curtains of night had descended. Above in the skies, the luminous moon hung high while the bonfire flickered beneath.
Properly dressed, Huangfu Wu Shuang walked up to face the Emperor and said, “Imperial Father, your son would like to have an archery competition with younger brother Shang, hope Imperial Father grants permission.”
When all is said and done, Huangfu Wu Shuang was still a temperamental and stubborn youth. At today’s hunting match, he originally intended to show off his skills yet he lost to Xiao Yin’s gyrfalcon and then again to Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang. Had he lost to anyone else, he would not have been as annoyed, however the one he lost to was his rival for the throne. Furthermore, Huangfu Wu Shang was a disabled person who only recently learned to ride and shoot. Moreover, Huangfu Wu Shuang was even scolded by his Imperial Father. As Crown Prince, what face did he have left? Thinking that the games in Huangfu Wu Shang’s hands were originally caught by his guards, Huangfu Wu Shuang proposed this match to redeem himself.
The Emperor agreed. How could he not understand what Huangfu Wu Shuang was thinking. Seeing the Emperor agree, the servants quickly withdrew to prepare.
Before, in the eyes of the officials there was only Huangfu Wu Shuang. They had never took much notice of Kang Wang Huangfu Wu Shang. But ever since his legs improved and he was bestowed the title of Kang Wang, the court officials were reminded that he was also a prince and in the running for the throne.
This was the first competition between the two princes, so of course everyone gathered to watch attentively.