Image by 伊吹五月
Lan Bing stood frozen in silence with mixed feelings inside.
Hua Zhu Yu coldly hmphed and turned to head back to Xin Yuan.
Early next morning Lan Bing went to inform Hua Zhu Yu that she was to follow Ji Feng Li to court. Since he continued to look at her with a strange expression in his eyes, she was deeply annoyed.
Ji Feng Li sat in the palanquin while Hua Zhu Yu rode on horseback with the other guards as they headed straight for the palace.
The palace was still as magnificent and grand as ever but the person sitting on the golden throne was already replaced by someone else.
These few days, Ji Feng Li was kept busy with preparing for the martial competition. In the 8th month of every year in Southern Kingdom, a martial competition was held to select military officers from the group of martial experts. But because the previous emperor didn’t want to let people from the Jianghu and their boorish ways into court so the competition had been canceled for almost a decade now. The current officers were for the most part nominated by officials or promoted from the ranks.
Emperor Huangfu Wu Shang decided to reinstate the competition in search of new talent, only this time it would be slightly modified to include a civil examination. Only 500 people made it through the civil exam. The upcoming competition would further whittle that list down to 100.
Ji Feng Li and the other examiners headed to the arena for the martial competition. Naturally as his personal guard Hua Zhu Yu went with Ji Feng Li.
The martial competition was in full swing with participants hailing from all types of martial backgrounds. It truly was an eye-opener for Hua Zhu Yu. As she was watching the competition take place she suddenly heard the examiner call her name, Yuan Bao. She thought she misheard but the examiner called out her name once again.
She was slightly puzzled when Tong Shou said, “Yuan Bao, quickly get on stage. Since you are already one of Lord Chancellor’s people, he won’t let your talents go to waste.”
“You mean that Lord Chancellor entered my name into the competition?” Hua Zhu Yu asked with a serious expression.
“That’s right,” Tong Shou replied without a glance her way, only looking ahead at the examiner on stage.
Hua Zhu Yu remained standing behind Ji Feng Li.
Now was not the time to reveal her skills. But she was Ji Feng Li’s subordinate, if she were to refuse would that draw his suspicion? She was hesitant and after thinking it through she went up to Ji Feng Li and said, “Lord Chancellor, my martial skills are limited. I fear I won’t be able to compete.” In the end she felt it was best not to participate.
Ji Feng Li wasn’t angered and merely swept his gaze over her before saying, “Do as you wish.”
When the examiner repeated her name a third time, Tong Shou instructed someone to pass on word to the examiner before he continued to call forward the next participant.
Standing behind Ji Feng Li, Hua Zhu Yu still felt a little unsettled. She didn’t understand why Ji Feng Li would allow her to participate in the competition. Could it be that he truly valued her talent? Was he truly sincere in wanting her to work for him?
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
After two days the list was narrowed down to a little over 100 people and the next competition would take place in 3 days.
That afternoon, Ji Feng Li summoned Hua Zhu Yu to his room.
Ever since that day Hua Zhu Yu avoided Ji Feng Li unless she was summoned, and fortunately he rarely summoned her.
So she wondered why he summoned her today.
As soon she stepped in the room, Ji Feng Li tossed the military report on the table and signaled for Hua Zhu Yu to take a look.
Puzzled, she picked up the military report and glanced over it and her calm heart instantly became restless.
Northern Kingdom had invaded!
She had thought Lan Bing was merely trying to frighten her back at Xuan Zhou when he told her about Northern Kingdom and its movements at the border. Not even a month passed since then and Northern Kingdom already has troops stationed inside Southern Kingdom’s border.
Both kingdoms signed a 5 year peace treaty yet not even half a year into it and Xiao Yin was breaking it. What exactly was going on?
When Hua Zhu Yu was in Northern Kingdom she had aided Xiao Yin in bringing peace to the grasslands and subjugating 3 major tribes. This had strengthened Northern Kingdom’s military strength, giving them the power to attack Southern Kingdom.
With great efforts she tried to suppress the shock she was feeling and slowly placed the report down on the table. When she looked up and met Ji Feng Li’s solemn gaze, she only saw that his eyes were pitch black, darker than a moonless night.
“Lord Chancellor, what is the current situation of the war?” Hua Zhu Yu asked earnestly.
Ji Feng Li replied with a faint smile, “ The general guarding the Northern border had led 30,000 soldiers to fight Xiao Yin’s army at the river bank. Our troops were ambushed and the leading general was killed. 30,000 troops yet only 5,000 survived to retreat to Yang Guan which they are currently defending.”
Hua Zhu Yu was shaken, she didn’t expect Xiao Yin to be able to reach Yang Guan so quickly. Between Southern and Northern Kingdom, was war truly inevitable?