The Northern Army troops gave chase, tailing closely behind Hua Zhu Yu when suddenly the sound of a qin arose from behind.
The tune lingered with a melancholic element but gradually picked up, rising in intensity and fervor.
This song was all too familiar to Hua Zhu Yu; it was Sha Po Lang.(Killing Broken Wolves)
Sha Po Lang!
This was a song that she herself composed for the orphan army, a song of sentimental significance. It was a song depicting the suffering and hardships that she and the orphan army had been through.
Besides her, only Dan Hong knew this song.
Did Dan Hong leave the Imperial Palace of Southern Kingdom?
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart constricted and she pulled on the reins to stop the horse, turning around to take a look. The scene that greeted her eyes was that of Xiao Yin’s grand army separating at the center to make way for a carriage that was slowly approaching. Layers upon layers of red muslin hung in front of the carriage. In the darkness of twilight, the red was exceptionally poignant, just like the red that Dan Hong would wear when she was on the battlefield. The qin sound was coming from there.
Hua Zhu Yu’s hands slightly trembled. Her lucid eyes narrowed as she tried to make out the person behind the red muslin. Inside the carriage was indeed the silhouette of a woman with her hair fixed in a high bun. Was that really Dan Hong? In her entire life, beside Jin Se, the person she felt she’d let down most was Dan Hong. Dan Hong had done so many things for her sake. If that person was truly Dan Hong then she must save her, no matter the cost.
Seeing Hua Zhu Yu suddenly stop midway, Tang Yu and Nangong Jue also reined their horses to a halt. Lord Chancellor had instructed that they were to escort this person back smoothly, barring him from returning to the Northern Army. Just moments ago, they were caught by surprise when he had cleared a bloody path by himself and rode back to the city gates of his own accord. But his abrupt stop made them vigilant again.
“Quickly retreat, if we linger any longer we won’t have the chance to return!” Tang Yu coldly shouted. The city gates weren’t going to remain open much longer.
Nangong Jue had also turned his horse around. He pointed his spear at her chest and said, “Stop dreaming, we won’t let you escape back to Northern Kingdom. Quickly retreat, if not I won’t be courteous any longer.”
Despite his words Hua Zhu Yu remained motionless as the Northern troops approached.
Hua Zhu Yu carefully listened to Sha Po Lang which was resonating in the large battlefield. She suddenly felt that something was amiss. Though the qin skills of this woman was exceptional it was still inferior compared to Dan Hong’s. Though this woman played the song with sorrow it was still a tad lacking. Only someone who had experienced the suffering and hardships along with the orphan army would be aware of the deep sadness that went into this song.
This person wasn’t Dan Hong!
But then, who was this person? Besides Dan Hong, who else would know this song?
When the song came to an end, a fair, slender hand reached out to lift the red muslin. When the woman stepped out, Hua Zhu Yu’s heart chilled.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
The woman was a beauty dressed in dazzling red robes that highlighted her slim, graceful figure. Her hair was fixed in a high bun; she had a pair of picturesque brows and limpid eyes, gleaming like the lakes in autumn.
Though it wasn’t Dan Hong, it was still someone she did not expect to see: Wen Wan.
Hua Zhu Yu still remembered the hatred and resentment buried in Wen Wan’s eyes that day when Xiao Yin had taken her with him to Northern Kingdom. Yet now she was completely different.
With a faint smile on her lips, she arrogantly looked at Hua Zhu Yu with a cold gaze which then swept towards the city gate towers at Ji Feng Li, who was still standing there, robes billowing in the wind.
A trace of sorrow flickered in her eyes before she lifted her skirt to alight the carriage and walked over towards Xiao Yin. He wrinkled his brows upon seeing her but the corners of his lips were lifted in a smile as his hand reached out to take hold of her waist, lifting her up onto his horse.
Together they sat on the horse, an indescribably intimate scene.
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart slightly sank.
She recalled the words Xiao Yin had spoken; it echoed in her ear as if it was just yesterday.
He had said he was willing to become a male prostitute if doing so would appease her hatred.
He had said, after receiving the beast’s blow, that he finally realized how painful it must’ve been for her to get shot by his arrow.
He had said, yatou, Southern Kingdom is very dangerous now, how can I not worry, leaving you here. This woman is my bargaining chip, as long as she’s in my hands, they won’t dare do anything to you.
He had said, yatou, I’m afraid in this lifetime, I’ll never have a Princess Consort, even a concubine, I’d rather do without.
It had only been a short time since those words were last spoken, however it was clear that much had changed since then.
The Northern troops awaited further orders from Xiao Yin after catching up and successfully obstructing their path back to Su Zhou.
Although Wen Wan’s face was expressionless the look she gave Hua Zhu Yu was cold and sharp. She turned around and whispered something in Xiao Yin’s ears. Listening to her, Xiao Yin suddenly narrowed his deep, unfathomable eyes and looked at Hua Zhu Yu.
Once Wen Wan was done talking, Xiao Yin’s lips lifted in a cold smile. He escorted her back to the carriage and then reached for the large bow hanging off the side of his saddle. He then reached behind to pull out several arrows and positioned them on the bow.
Lifting the bow, he drew back the string.
On the battlefield among thousands of troops, Hua Zhu Yu could clearly hear his bowstring drawing back, and like the string, her heart momentarily tensed.
A numbness spread through her body and she dared not believe Xiao Yin was aiming at her. She couldn’t utter a word, only silently meeting his gaze.
She then smiled faintly, like a flower blooming foolishly.
“Don’t Your Majesty!” Hui Xue and Liu Feng called out but they were a step too late; their voices drowned by the whistle of the releasing arrows, shooting towards Tang Yu, Nangong Jue, and Hua Zhu Yu.
The arrow soared through the air at an astonishing speed, making it hard to avoid. Hua Zhu Yu could only raise her spear and silently employ internal force into it to block the arrow. Since the spear was made of wood, if she didn’t employ her internal force she feared the arrow would pierce straight through the spear and stab her chest. Although she blocked the arrow, the impact from it was forceful enough to hurt her arm and she felt a bitter taste rising in her throat as she spit out a mouthful of blood.
Looking at the blood before her, she only felt immense sorrow.
She felt that happiness was before her eyes yet at the same time quite far away, separated by ranges of mountains and stretches of seas, never to be within her grasp.
She once thought that she could go back to being a simple woman and marry a good man. But a cup of poisonous wine had turned that dream into a nightmare.
When she thought she had finally found someone who would shelter her, his single arrow had shattered that dream into pieces.
Why was it that happiness was so faraway?
The gyrfalcon unfolded its wings and took flight, leaving Xiao Yin’s shoulder to fly towards Hua Zhu Yu. She was uncertain if her horse was scared by Xiao Yin’s arrow or the sudden appearance of the gyrfalcon but it’s front hooves suddenly rose and it leaned forward, sending Hua Zhu Yu flying to the ground.
When she was mid-air, she spotted Xiao Yin pulling on his reins, riding towards her from the corner of her eyes. She twisted her body and nailed the spear on the ground, stabilizing herself. The Northern Emperor was personally coming to send her off, she was truly blessed!
Xiao Yin’s eyes flashed with a cold callousness as his spear clashed with hers. Under his strength, she was forced backwards.
Although she had never officially fought Xiao Yin, she had seen him battle Dou Qian Jin so she was aware of his strength. But personally fighting him today, she realized that Xiao Yin’s martial skills and internal force had skyrocketed. Months ago his internal force would’ve been comparable to hers but now it was beyond her and she couldn’t keep up.
Tang Yu and Nangong Jue had escaped Xiao Yin’s arrows but were still surrounded by his troops.
Xiao Yin’s arrow had injured her arm and the spear in her hand was also ordinary. Furthermore, how could she face someone with such massive internal force.
18 moves later, Xiao Yin had stabbed her shoulder.
Hua Zhu Yu collapsed to the ground; the constant sounds of killing and horses neighing swirled around her.
The wind whistled by like a crying ghost, full of grievance.
With nightfall, both armies had lit up their torches. In the light of the flames, the silver of his armor fell into her line of sight and the sharp blade of his spear gave off a callous glint, reflecting Hua Zhu Yu’s cold, beautiful complexion.
Xiao Yin’s lips were set in a grim line and his purple eyes suddenly narrowed as they silently watched Hua Zhu Yu.
Su Zhou’s gates opened right then and a flood of troops rode out, surprising the Northern troops. General Wang Yu led the charge while Left Chancellor Ji Feng Li flanked his side.
Alarmed, Xiao Yin waved his hand and a number of soldiers pointed their weapons at Hua Zhu Yu while someone else came forward and tied her up. His purple eyes had filled with a cold demonic aura.
Seeing this, Tang Yu and Nangong Jue charged forward. Tang Yu waved his sleeve and a number of sharp needles shot out at those surrounding Hua Zhu Yu. Those hit immediately collapsed.
Xiao Yin suddenly turned around, lifted Hua Zhu Yu up onto his horse and immediately rode back towards his army.
The two armies battled in front of the city gate but Hua Zhu Yu was no longer a part of it. She became a prisoner of war the moment she was captured by Xiao Yin. It was unexpected and she was sure that it would only reinforce Ji Feng Li’s belief that she was a Northern spy. At the thought a bitter smile appeared on her face. No matter what though she had to go to the Northern Kingdom and find out why Xiao Yin was behaving so strangely.
The battle raged on until midnight resulting in the successful push back of the Northern Army. The Southern Kingdom was able to regain 50 miles of land forcing the Northern troops to retreat all the way back to Yang Guan city.
Two days later.
All the residents of Yang Guan fled when the Northern troops took over a few days ago. As a result it was an empty city aside from the troops currently occupying it.
Hua Zhu Yu was transported to Xiao Yin’s temporary residence in a plain carriage. The place he claimed had minimal damage and was in fact the city magistrate’s residence.
She was taken to the dungeon in the residence and imprisoned there. The damp and gloominess of the place made her feel suffocated and her shoulder injury pained her, making her frown.
She sat on the ground and thought about Xiao Yin, the images of him on the battlefield flashed through her mind. She tried to remember if there was anything strange about his behavior, but ultimately couldn’t find anything odd. Other than him forgetting about her, he was his usual self. This was a fact she had to accept.
He didn’t appear to be manipulated by anyone; he was just his usual domineering, cold and decisive self. So then… what happened? She had to find out.
She used her internal force to cut loose the ropes that bound her before walking slowly over to the door. The prison was sturdy but lacked guards. This was because Yang Guan was situated in a strategic area and its defenses were strong; the Northern army weren’t worried about the Southern troops penetrating the defenses so Xiao Yin didn’t think there would be a rescue attempt.
Hua Zhu Yu knew someone would come soon so she stood by the door waiting. Sure enough light footsteps echoed in the darkness, approaching step by step.
It was Xiao Yin’s personal guard, Hui Xue standing before her holding onto a lantern.
On the battlefield Hua Zhu Yu had seen her trying to stop Xiao Yin and knew Hui Xue would come find her.