After I promised Uncle Tong I would live a peaceful life, I went to bed and woke up in an unfamiliar place. My hands and feet were tied in a dead knot and I was lying on a hard bed.
Under the lantern’s light, I could see a figure next to me. A young Daoist nun was sleeping while hugging her sword. Her skin was fair and her eyelashes were long. She looked very gentle, unlike a ruffian who went around kidnapping people.
I secretly cursed Feng Zhao Wen for bestowing so many marriage gifts. In the end, he turned my An Residence into the target of thieves!
The moment she opened her eyes, it were filled with murderous air, “You thief! You are finally awake!”
The way she addressed me was so inappropriate, in my humble opinion.
I smiled lightly, “Little miss Daoist nun, An Yi thinks the way you addressed An Yi is too inappropriate. ‘Your distinguished self’ seems more appropriate.” At least thieves didn’t go around kidnapping people.
She drew her sword and directed it towards my neck. The little miss’ eyes were vicious; such a fierce Daoist nun!
“Do you believe me if I say a brandish of my sword is enough to end you?”
I scooted backwards: “Please be careful, Daoist nun. Swords have no eyes! You and I have never had any kind of enmity before, can you please tell me where your fury comes from?”
She laughed mockingly, “You treacherous thief who betrayed your country….. Not only did you side with the enemy, you actually wanted to become the Great Qi’s empress; the wife of your dog emperor! How humiliating this will be for the late regent!”
My heart fell, but it was not enough to discourage me, “Where is Qin Hui? Bring him to me!”
The little Daoist nun made another scornful noise, “How dare you call His Majesty by his given name?” After that, she turned around and no longer paid any attention to me.
(TN: Qin Hui is Xiao Huang’s real name.)
Alert and intelligent, I suddenly had a speculation. Perhaps Xiao Huang did not know I was kidnapped.
“Does that mean that His Majesty does not know I am here? Don’t tell me you people lost His Majesty….”
A look of embarrassment could be seen on the girl’s face, “His Majesty was just checking out the situation in incognito….. We did not lose him….”
I could not hold back my laughter. Xiao Huang had been honest to me.
By noon, the next day, Xiao Huang ‘who was checking out the situation in incognito’ returned with a dark face.
By then, I already had a tug of war with the little Daoist nun and had managed to persuade her to at least untie me so I would walk around the room freely.
I clung on the door, trying to take a good look outside. There were trees outside, shading the ground from sunlight. There were two Daoist practitioners standing guards in the doorway, though I had no idea if they were really Daoist practitioners or not.
The little miss leaned against the bed before coldly speaking, “Do not even think to try, thief. This place is deserted and is being guarded heavily; you will not be able to run far.”
When Xiao Huang kicked open the door, the bed was occupied by the little miss. I, on the other hand, was curling up in the long couch, tired after making a scene all day. I opened my eyes to glance at him, “You are back?” And then, I leaned back down, preparing to go to sleep.
He stepped forward and dragged me up from the long couch. “Follow me.”
The little miss immediately exploded. She picked up her sword and got up, “Your Majesty, we went through a lot to capture this thief. How can you simply release her?”
By now, I was completely awake.
This little girl really did not understand decorum. Xiao Huang was a deposed emperor. If she went around calling him that in front of Feng Zhao Wen, she would have been dragged out to be beaten to death long ago.
The hand in which Xiao Huang was dragging me with became tighter. He coldly glanced at the little miss. Under his cold eyes, the girl finally kneeled, “This subordinate overstepped her boundaries!”
He pursed his lips and dragged me away without saying anything. The little girl chased after us and so were the two guards near the entrance. They spoke at the same time, as though monks chanting the same thing, “Your Majesty, you must not release her. Your Majesty….”
I took that advantage to gauge the perimeter. This seemed to be a home that had been abandoned. It must had been highly-ornamented in it’s prime, but right now, it was abandoned and dilapidated. The residence was heavily guarded. More and more people who saw us chanted the same thing, but none of them dared to raise their swords for now.
I could see a decorated gate in front, probably the entrance. A group of people suddenly entered through that gate. A man seemed to be leading them all. He was tall and his sideburns were really thick and wild. He seemed to be very spirited, the way he walked resembled a mighty soldier. When he arrived in front of Xiao Huang, he bent his body and greeted him, “This official greets Your Majesty!”
“Please get up, imperial uncle!” Xiao Huang’s hand clutched on me tighter. His palm had gotten sweaty. However, he looked pretty calm and unperturbed, helping the old man up with his other hand.
I gave that man a closer look and he indeed resembled the late emperor.
I was more or less familiar with the late emperor’s brothers. However, I was not familiar with this one. After thinking for a while, I suddenly remembered him.
Yi Wang was given birth to by a slave. Other than inheriting his mother’s good looks, he was never known for anything. He was born of a low-status mother. After he grew up, he was given the title Yi Wang and was sent to a far away land that was famous for being cold and harsh. Out of all the wangye, he was the only one who hadn’t entered the capital.
As for his mother, there was a complication when she was giving birth to him. She died right after he was born.
One’s background was really important in the palace. Even during troubled times, without one’s maternal family to lean on, the Great Chen’s back palace was not something magnificent to Yi Wang.
Yi Wang looked at me like a tiger would to it’s prey. His eyes were like daggers. Affected by the look he was giving me, I secretly sighed: This Yi Wang did not have anything good in store for me.
“This king heard the late regent only had one child. Who would have thought that she was a crossdresser? You saved His Majesty’s life; that is akin to saving the entire Great Chen. Please accept this king’s gratitude!” After he said that, he looked like he was about to kneel.
Those people behind him looked like they were going to kneel as well.
I took the first step and curtsied in front of him, “The moment this maiden saw wangye, this maiden was already intimidated by wangye’s tiger-like posture. Wangye’s name is really famous, wouldn’t it be difficult for this maiden if you intent on showing your gratitude?”
The wangye’s eyes sank a little. He gave me a simple smile, “No need to be so courteous, Miss.” He no longer brought up the matter of me saving Xiao Huang.
If I really did not show any courtesy and let him kneel in front of me, other people would not let it be. The little miss would have given me a blow straight to my neck.
Xiao Huang naturally had to abandon his plan to take me out.
He brought me back to his own room; it was naturally cleaner and more refined than the room I was confined in.
The little miss followed us closely from behind, muttering to herself, “A man and a woman in a room together; are they really not afraid of criticism?”
I turned to ask her, “Are you criticizing His Majesty, little miss?”
Her face reddened, “No, I would never!” She looked like she was drilling hole into me, with the way she looked at me. Unfortunately for her, I had always been thick-skinned, so I was not really affected.
I wrapped my hand around Xiao Huang’s arm and smiled ambiguously at the little miss, “His Majesty is sleepy. I will accompany him to rest. Will you be following us, little miss?”
The little miss brandished her sword towards a pear-wood table on the room. Saw dust filled the air as she scolded me with a red face, “Absolutely fickle….. A woman of loose morals….. Completely irresponsible!” After that, she walked away.
I could not stop laughing. Xiao Huang dragged me onto his bed. As I wordlessly glared at him, he whispered to my ear, “Come closer to me. Let’s talk.”
Xiao Huang told me that E Huang realized I was missing after she brought in my washing water in the morning. My disappearance had been reported to the palace. Taking advantage of the mess in my home, Xiao Huang slipped out.
I leaned against his chest. It was pretty embarrassing but at moments like these, I did not care for anything anymore. I whispered softly to his ears, “Don’t you think it is better for you to live a life as the emperor’s brother-in-law. I think, it will at least be better than living under Yi Wang’s hands.”
He looked at me blankly; he looked a little stupid and in disbelief.
I sighed, “Yi Wang hates me, isn’t he? He will be really happy if I hand over the seal to him, but what he will get is not only the seal, but also a hot potato.”
Xiao Huang’s eyes were glistening in tears as he stubbornly looked away.
The truth was not something everyone could tell nor was it something everyone could accept.
I patted him in the head; indescribable amount of pity suddenly rising in my heart. No matter what, this kid had a heart that was larger than the sky. It was unfortunate that he was raised inside the palace, he never really got to live properly.
“The late regent of the Great Chen has an illegitimate child. The child has now returned to his family roots. What name should we give him?”
He quickly turned his head to look at me, “You…..”
I pinched his cheeks. “Father had always wanted a son. From now on, if I find out that you didn’t sweep his tomb on Qing Ming day, I will break your legs, understand?” Then, I knocked him in the head, “Who are you calling ‘you’? Call me jiejie!”
(TN: Jiejie (姐姐) is the way younger siblings call their older sister.)
Under my silent threat, he finally whispered a low, “Jiejie….”
I happily patted his cheeks, “Then, we shall call you An Le.”