Yi Wang was a far-sighted person who originally hailed from a political clan. He was already well-acquainted with the ‘kill the fowl to warn the monkey’ method ever since he was young. The sound of screaming could be heard from outside the window. I clutched my ears, having no problem trying to go back to sleep.
——- At this moment, I particularly missed Feng Zhao Wen’s warm embrace.
(TN: ‘Kill the fowl to warn the monkey’ means using harming someone to warn someone else.)
However, the pitiful Xiao Huang was still young. When he heard the sound of screaming from outside, he sat up with a pale face. He got down from the bed and walked over to the window.
The people outside could hear his movement. Someone from outside respectfully spoke, “This official deserved to die for interrupting Your Majesty’s rest. Please forgive me, Your Majesty. Just, this thief betrayed his country and deceived the emperor, wangye ordered me to punish him before your imperial presence.”
It made sense to punish a treacherous criminal in front of the emperor, however, killing him in front of the emperor’s chamber in the middle of the night ought to bring underlying meaning. For a coward, the underlying threat ought to be enough to scare them to death. Lucky Xiao Huang still had a healthy heart.
Xiao Huang clenched his fist and walked to the door. A green vein was visible on his temple. He looked like a caged beast. I immediately jumped down from the bed to appease the little beast. I pulled him towards the window and spoke loudly, “Wangye cares so much for the kingdom. He is busy punishing criminals even in the dead of the night. His Majesty is really touched and wants to go over to him to praise him.”
Wangye ah, you were not the only one who could disturb other people’s sleep.
Xiao Huang laughed foolishly towards me. He was no longer frowning and fisting his hand. His entire body eased down.
The people outside tried to stop us, “How can we trouble Your Majesty?”
……. Were they scared we would disturb Yi Wang’s rest?
Xiao Huang was already putting on his outer robe, excitedly urging me. Before the people outside even got to say anything else, he pushed open the door and walked out. I followed him closely from behind. It was a messy scene outside; the one who was punished was dying on the ground. Four to five guards outside were trying to stop Xiao Huang with their bloody hands, but he kicked them away and cleverly avoided all them. He went to where Yi Wang was living at.
When Xiao Huang and I got to where Yi Wang lived, the lights were still on. Yi Wang came out to welcome us, half-dressed, looking very sleepy. There was a nice scent of fragrance wafting out when he opened the door….. He was a man who knew how to differentiate work and play….
Yi Wang did not hesitate to glare at Xiao Huang— no men wouldn’t get angry when interrupted at times like these. Unfortunately, Xiao Huang was ignorant to human’s relationship. He merely stepped forward and grabbed Yi Wang’s hand. He looked like he was going to cry, “Zhen is not capable and had to trouble imperial uncle. You continued helping zhen even in the middle of the night, zhen is touched and concerned. Zhen came here to keep imperial uncle company, to share imperial uncle’s burden.”
As I stood behind him, I secretly praised his choice of words. He shocked the sleepiness off of Yi Wang. I lowered my head to look respectful, trying to stifle my laughter.
Yi Wang punishing people at night had roused the emperor’s sympathy. The emperor proceeded to visit him 5 nights in a row; the ruler and the subject getting along in harmony. On broad daylight on the other hand, Yi Wang had to arrange a banquet for the ‘loyal and patriotic General Guang Wu’; one that required a lot of safety measures. On the sixth day, the monarch and the subject greeted each other with black under-eyes; it was admirable how in sync they were!
At the moment, Yi Wang was displaying his loving and merciful side. He kept on frowning throughout the banquet, sighing weakly and basically putting on the face of a loyal official in the midst of a national crisis; looking as though he was willing to lose his head for the kingdom.
I noisily gnawed on braised pork shoulder, my lips full of grease.
It was said that wise people waited for the right time to act; a clever person like me would never seek argument with Yi Wang under these settings
Xiao Huang pinched my arm under the table when the counselor behind Yi Wang sighed, “General Guang Wu must know that the troop under wangye’s hand does not exceed 20,000. Not only do they need to protect His Majesty, they also need to run around to do our biddings. We really do not have enough people ah!”
I thought, frowning while gnawing on braised pork shoulder did not seem very respectful towards Yi Wang, so I reluctantly put down the pork shoulder and wiped the grease on my hand and gave Yi Wang an honest face, “Wangye knows that An Yi is a dandy person. The ‘general’ title that I got was only courtesy of my Father. I am not capable enough to help wangye.”
A cold light flashed in Yi Wang’s sharp eyes as he looked at me despondently.
……… Just look if you want to look….. It was useless. I was not Guan Yin, the Goddess who could help with your woes.
I purposely concentrated on wiping my fingertips, pretending not to see the look he was giving me.
The aide who was standing by his side looked at me with sparkling eyes as though I was a piece of meat, “Is General aware of a seal that was in the late regent’s possession? It is said that the seal has the authority to control a number of troops that have been secretly trained by the Great Chen. Doesn’t that means that the seal can help us recover the Great Chen, if we have it in our possession?”
The banquet immediately fell into a deep silence. Even though my head was lowered, I could still feel the dozens of sharp eyes falling on me.
I raised my head and earnestly looked at Yi Wang, “That seal definitely existed. But…. Wangye also knew that our troops were defeated back then in Huang He Valley. I was captured by the then Crown Prince of the Great Qi….” I gave him an apologetic look.
His helper took the hint and immediately lost his cool. He angrily yelled at me, “You foolish girl! You actually gave the seal to the enemy’s Crown Prince? Have you been secretly changing the troop’s alliance to be loyal to the Great Qi? No wonder you gets to be the empress! Wangye…” He stood there in fury, as though I dug out his ancestor’s tombs.
…… Honestly, I didn’t really say anything.
Yi Wang waited for him to vent enough before speaking in a neither light nor heavy tone, “Be quiet. General Guang Wu is the late regent’s daughter. She only did that for our sake, not at all similar to those ministers who betrayed the kingdom. She must have been doing that to trick them for her own benefit…..” After he said that, his face turned ugly. Perhaps, he too realized that what he said was really ridiculous and far-fetched; and that he had tried too hard to absolve me off the blame.
That’s why I said Yi Wang still had a loving and merciful side, even if it was just for show. He did not throw me into the dungeon nor did he punish me. Instead, he treated me with good wine and food. Other than me unable to leave this place, everything else was sufficient. There was nothing to complain about at all.
The seal was mentioned a couple more times later, and Yi Wang would always sigh in distress. For the sake of my appetite, I was sorry to say that I was unwilling to be near him during banquets. I would come up with excuses not to attend them.
As for Xiao Huang, though he wanted to go out a couple of times, he would spend most of his time with the little miss, practicing martial arts.
The little miss was agile and merciless. She would say, ‘I’m sorry, Your Majesty’, but the strength in which she poked the long stick towards Xiao Huang was more than anyone else would dare. At times like that, I would wonder if she had a personal vendetta against Xiao Huang. Why else was she so heavy-handed?
No wonder Xiao Huang’s hands now had calluses.
When he was having a break, I could not help myself from advising him. He glared at me before speaking in a resolute face, “Xiao Yi, we are currently in a dangerous territory. If I don’t practice, how can I protect myself? How can I protect you?”
I stared at his now prominent facial features and could not help but gave him a shallow smile, “You have been training like this for a long time, hadn’t you? Back then, after we separated, you must have met Yi Wang and saw how impressive he was. That was when you started practicing, right?”
Why would the ambitious and capable Yi Wang stood under a clueless boy for long?
There was a ridiculing look on his face, “I cannot hide anything from you. I was too naïve when I was younger.” He patted my shoulder, “From how I look at it, you are a lot more naïve than me, nowadays.”
I put on a modest look, as though I was open-mindedly receiving his teaching, “The emperor of the Great Qi wants to make you the empress because of the seal. The harem is so dangerous and you are so unlikeable, how are you so sure that he will continue loving you for the rest of your life?”
The rest of my life was so far from now, how could I foresee such a distant matter?
He spoke on, “Why don’t we run from here and assume the lives of the common people? I did not know how to appreciate things back then. After we split up, I dreamed about returning to those times. I kept dreaming about our lives when we were living in the mountains. Even though your head was muddled back then, and though our life was hard, it was also the happiest time of my life. We did not have to think about deaths and there was no one to order us around. We didn’t have to be caged up in a golden cage.”
He no longer coveted the seal and the other dangerous desires anymore.
I shook my head, watching the falling leaves outside with a simple smile on my face.
There was only one road in one’s life. We had to take that route long ago despite not wanting to. As one walked on, they might get entranced by the views and lost their way.
Although I hated that person so much in the past, it was a hate stemmed out of obligation. Hatred aside, I could still remember that warm embrace amidst the cold night. Reluctance rose in my heart.
It would be cold here, soon. Although the walls were high, I could see the green mountains not far away. If I guessed right, it was the mountain on the outskirt of the capital.
Time passed and we reached the 15th day of the eighth month.
On that day, Yi Wang invited me and Xiao Huang to admire the moon. The little miss who was following Xiao Huang closely from behind, kept giving me pitiful looks. I suddenly anticipate what was about to happen.
I had to board a tightly guarded sedan chair for around four hours. It was bumping so much that I felt like I was going to throw up. When I was helped up, my eyes fell on that man who was like a moon surrounded by stars. As the dark wind blew, that pair of phoenix eyes underneath a golden headgear was full of hostility. He carried the overbearing air of an emperor. When he looked at Yi Wang, he looked as though he was looking at a dead body. That murderous look from him was so intimidating that it made people want to kneel and beg for mercy.
I gave him a fawning smile; under his reproving eyes, I was glad that I already defected to the enemy’s side.
Serene: This chapter is brought to you by Sonia.