Opening the door, Xuanji stepped outside and placed her hand around her lips, calling out in a low whisper, “Hidden guards, are you there?”
A moment’s silence.
There was no response.
Smiling, she continued, “If no one’s there then I guess this madam shall just go for a stroll.”
After only taking two steps forward, Xuanji saw two figures appear in front of her, dressed in purple attires from head to toe.
“Madam, please return to your room,” one of them said respectfully.
Brows creasing, Xuanji said in a solemn voice, “Take me to your Young Master, I have something urgent to discuss with him.”
Seeing the two Purple Guards exchanging glances, Xuanji feigned anger and said, “Your Young Master told you to watch over me, didn’t he? It’s not a dereliction of duty if you take me to him now, you would still be following orders. This is a matter that concerns the Young Master’s safety, why are you still dawdling?”
Like Ruyi, Xuanji was led by the Purple Guards to the lakeside of the pavilion.
As she drew closer, she motioned for the Purple Guards to withdraw. Once they were gone, she wanted to head straight for the pavilion but then she noticed who was inside. There were two people, their arms wrapped around each other in a tight embrace. He was there, hugging someone….Ruyi?
Why was Ruyi here?
Watching from afar, Xuanji saw Ruyi whisper something in his ear, then rest her head against his broad shoulders.
From where she stood, she couldn’t make out his expression, but she could clearly see his hands resting against Ruyi’s back.
It turns out, he left in the middle of the night to come see Ruyi.
No wonder he wanted to seal her sleeping point, no wonder he feared she would run about… She thought he was worried about her safety, it seems she had over-thought things.
Why did he have to mind? He could’ve just told her that he wanted to come meet Ruyi.
She wasn’t going to make a fuss about it, not after what happened at Bixia Palace, never again!
She silently laughed at herself as her heart thumped with a dull, hollow pain. She was already prepared to leave once the timing was right, so why was she still like this? At a loss, she could only turn around quietly and walk back.
She realized tonight that leaving and being heartbroken were completely unrelated, that leaving and loving too were two entirely different things.
But as she walked away, she suddenly bumped into someone, catching her off guard but that person had quickly extended a hand to steady her, lightly addressing, “Madam.”
It was Long Zijin!
Xuanji gazed back at the hugging duo in the far distance and then looked at Long Zijin.
Long Zijin quietly laughed, seemingly at himself, and said in a low voice, “Can you give them some quiet time together?”
Smiling stiffly, Xuanji realized that she must appear as a jealous woman in his eyes.
“O-of course…why wouldn’t I? Why are you here?” Xuanji said with a stutter as she lowered her head in embarrassment.
Smiling, Long Zijin replied, “The hidden guards also informed me that she was here…..I’ll walk you back.”
I don’t want to go back, I have to leave, Xuanji silently lamented but she shook her head and smiled, asking in a soft voice, “Second Young Master, you’re afraid I’ll turn around and disturb….disturb the two of them?”
A look of surprise fleeted across his eyes as he looked at her. She had seen through his actions but hearing the woeful tone of her voice, he hastened to say, “I didn’t mean that.”
On normal days he would scold Ruyi and tell her to be vigilant of Xuanji but it was all because he didn’t want to see her get hurt. He had no ill will towards Xuanji, rather spending time with her these days and hearing Xia Sang recount what happened at Bixia Palace, he even grown to like her somewhat. If it wasn’t for Prime Minister Nian and having Ruyi’s best interest at heart, he felt that Xuanji was someone worth making friends with.
“It’s quite alright, it’s only natural for you to think so.” In a low voice, Xuanji said, “You’re also suffering too.”
Long Zijin looked at her, stunned for some time before his lips twisted in a self-derisive smile.
“Would you like to go for a walk?” He suggested. “You probably didn’t expect this but behind this Yu Residence, there’s a beautiful mountain, and below the mountain is the vast sea. This shady household unexpectedly has a very beautiful backyard.”
“Alright,” Xuanji said with a nod.
Long Zijin waved his hand in the air, to which puzzled Xuanji as she asked, “What’s wrong?”
Smiling, Long Zijin said, “Just telling the Purple Guards who are tailing us to withdraw. I’m here now, I can protect you.”
As they walked, Xuan Ji laughingly commented, “These Purple Guards, their figures all look really alike.”
“Yes, they all look like ninth brother,” Long Zijin said, his voice somewhat distant as he narrowed his eyes, his gaze seemingly far away as if in recollection.
“The night before Ninth Brother was to ascend the throne, Ruyi had happened to be passing by, if she hadn’t seen what had happened and shouted for help, he would’ve been killed. Later, his master from Mingjian Manor came and stayed at the palace for some time. It was then that the hidden guards were established and trained to ensure Ninth Brother’s safety.”
Smiling, he continued, “Of course, Ninth Brother doesn’t need anyone to protect him now, but he began to train the hidden guards personally, he even established secret underground bases scattered across the country. He often tells me it’s not enough for a crafty rabbit to have three burrows1.”
(t/n idiom for a sly individual has more than 1 plan to fall back on.)
Xuanji’s heart throbbed… It hasn’t been easy for him, living these past few years. It turns out that Ruyi was the one that had saved his life. “No wonder he loves Ruyi so much,” she remarked dolefully.
Stiffening slightly, Long Zijin took a glance at Xuanji and quietly agreed, “Yes, no one can come between Ninth Brother’s feelings for Ruyi.”
“Right,” Xuanji nodded with a smile. “I understand…. He only has her in his heart.”
Long Zijin looked at Xuanji, a sliver of sadness in his eyes, hiding a deeper sense of guilt. He had deceived her. In fact, he could vaguely tell that Long Fei Li’s feelings for Xuanji wasn’t nothing, it was even complicated compared to Ruyi.”
They remained silent for some time. The only audible sound was of the waves crashing against the rocky shores, of the hissing of the wind blowing pass, carrying the salty taste of the seawater. They had made their way to the edges of the mountain cliff. Above them were endless steep mountains, standing tall and formidable in the dark night, below were the rolling waves of the deep sea.
Xuanji couldn’t help but shrink back a little, laughing nervously as she said, “It looks quite terrifying, one fall and it’s a sure death that awaits.”
Hearing this, an idea suddenly came to Long Zijin as he thought about giving her a scare. But suddenly a cold voice issued behind them. “If the two of you jump down together now, it will surely save us the time and energy.”