Chapter 16 Thousand mile Jiaolu Part 1
The Harem of Yan Kingdom. Jiaolan Hall.
Late in the night.
The scent of soothing fragrance wafted faintly in from the three incense burners with qilin patterns. It was April, and it was still a bit cool when the wind blew at night. Xue Zhaoyi turned over cautiously, for fear that it would disturb Emperor Yan, Murong Xiu, next to her.
There were many rules during the day. Xue Zhaoyi lowered her eyebrows and closed her eyes, not daring to stare at Murong Xiu. It was not until the evening that she finally had a fair chance. Xue Zhaoyi was looking at Murong Xiu’s sleeping face, the corners of her eyes were filled with joy.
The emperor in front of her was a young man, but he possessed wisdom that contradicted his age. His lips were thin and his deep eye sockets were always tinged with a faint black cyan. Even in his sleep, his eyebrows were tightly clenched, making his face appear permanently gloomy.
Xue Zhaoyi still remembered that the first time she met Murong Xiu was on the royal hunting ground. She was the eldest daughter of the second-grade imperial censor official, Xue Zhi’s family. On a whim, she clamoured to go to the men’s hunting ground to join in the fun. Thus the pearl of Imperial Censor Xue’s hand, arrogant since childhood, was told to pretend to be a man. Wearing a black martial arts suit and a simple bun to tie up her black satin-like long hair, she snuck into the hunting ground. Who knew that when she dressed up in this way, Murong Xiu would notice her as soon as she entered. Imperial Censor Xue pulled his daughter to her knees, trembling. He waited for the wrath of the emperor, but unexpectedly, what was waiting was an imperial decree. They were to be given a title and allowed to enter the palace.
Before entering the palace, Xue Zhaoyi had heard that His Majesty had his mind full of court matters and was very indifferent to his concubines. But she didn’t expect that as soon as she entered the palace, she would be so doted on. No matter how extraordinary the request was, His Majesty would agree without blinking. The only strange thing was that she liked pink, flowers, and colourful clothes, but in private, Murong Xiu always ordered her to wear men’s black clothing to make love to her.
She didn’t know why.
Xue Zhaoyi was thinking wildly, but suddenly heard the door of the sleeping hall open with a soft squeak.
The great eunuch Liu Quan bowed and knelt in front of the bed cautiously. Leaning in Murong Xiu’s ear, he said a few words. Xue Zhaoyi pretended to sleep and listened curiously, but the eunuch’s voice was too small to hear anything.
She only felt Murong Xiu lift the quilt, anxiously get off the bed and walk to the front hall.
Did something big happen on the front lines? Xue Zhaoyi thought about it quietly. She had been accustomed to being arrogant and pampered by her father since she was a child, so she had become very reckless. She got up from the bed and tiptoed to hide behind a carved sandalwood screen. She peered through the gap in the carvings.
“Arrived in Yaocheng …”
“… cured the Gu…”
She was too far away. For a long time, she could only intermittently hear vague few words said by the eunuch Liu Quan. She didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. While talking, Liu Quan held something wrapped in brocade and silk with both hands and presented it to Murong Xiu.
Xue Zhaoyi squinted, trying hard to see what it was.
The brocade was uncovered layer upon layer. What was carefully wrapped in it turned out to be an ink-black jade hairpin broken in two.
Xue Zhaoyi couldn’t help but be bewildered. In the middle of the night, did this Liu Quan eat a leopard’s great ambition to wake His Majesty just to see this humble black jade hairpin?
Even if one looked closely, nothing special could be said about the hairpin. Although it was lustrous and transparent, it was not rare. The shape was simple and unpretentious. The only special thing was that the hairpin had a little dry blackish red spot on it.
Was it…. blood?
Murong Xiu said nothing. Under the shadowy candlelight, for an instant, Xue Zhaoyi thought she was imagining things.
She had never seen Murong Xiu’s face this distorted before.
It was an angry face. There was even a trace of suppressed… jealousy.
Yes, he was jealous.
Xue Zhaoyi stared at the ink jade hairpin, feeling a little uneasy.
The Dignified Emperor Yan, what can he not get?
Who could he be jealous of?
Border, Jiaolu River.
As the sunset, the surface of the narrow river was shimmering. Twenty cargo ships with a deep draft were moving steadily in neat rows. This was the border between Dongyun and Yan. With the waterways crisscrossed and the two countries always at peace, there was a lot of trade that happened. One couldn’t see the ends of things on both sides of the river. There were shops with white walls and black tiles, rows of red backgrounds and black letters blowing in the river breeze, like the waving handkerchief of a girl in her boudoir. Each beckon attracted the bodyguards on the boats making them restless.
A few little guards squatted at the stern of the boat, staring at the shopkeepers’ signs. They counted them one by one: “This one sells preserves, these two sell braised meat, look at how fat those braised trotters are. Tsk tsk—hey, look, look, that one sells shochu! The girl at the door looks so refreshing…”
The more they looked at it, the more saliva flowed. However, all the drooling was useless. Several young guards stole glances at the tall and thin back figure standing motionless at the stern of the cargo ship. Several people couldn’t help but frown and sigh in unison.
Alas…their general always kept their waist straight, always treating them strictly.
After finally receiving these precious temper snow stones and loading twenty ships full of them, they thought they could breathe a sigh of relief. However, they didn’t expect their general to become even more strict. They were not allowed to get off the boat to buy things, talk to strangers or indulge in alcohol. Even if they see a beautiful girl on the coast and whistle at her, they would be punished if caught.
The little guards didn’t dare be angry or utter a word. They only dared to poke and wonder. This general, who was as young as them, had a handsome face that could seduce a pretty girl instantly with his charm, but his personality was not so great. How could he act like an 80-year-old old-fashioned man? A two-thousand-year-old iceberg?
The guard Ah Jing squatted and fiddled with the iron stove for cooking. He whispered softly: “Look at our general, hasn’t he been a little unhappy these past two days?”
Another fat guard said disapprovingly: “Our general always has a stubborn expression, how can you tell if he is happy or not?”
Ah Jing scratched the back of his head: “It’s been more obvious after the Dongyun man left, don’t you think?”
The fat guard’s eyes had already floated to the colourful shops on the bank, and he said dazedly: “Hai, you might be right.”
The night grew darker, and the merchants on both sides of the river bank lit up red lanterns which reflected on the water. However, the twenty cargo ships did not plan to dock and rest, they were still steadily moving forward speedily in the dark. Gradually, the residents on both sides of the strait became sparser, but the reeds as tall as a person was getting denser.
Now away from the sound of people, only the sound of oars splashing in the water can be heard.
Yan Changqing clasped his hands behind his back. He was standing quietly at the stern of the last cargo ship. Tall and thin back, meticulous, cold temperament, his whole person was like a long sword that has just been bladed, waiting to be unsheathed.
Even though he had successfully received the temper snow stones, he hadn’t set foot on the land of the capital. Yan Changqing did not dare to relax his vigilance. Especially after getting the temper snow stones, their team was like a shining fat sheep walking in the middle of the night road. One never knows at which moment the darkness would suddenly reveal its bloody claws.
Milky white mist gradually formed on the surface of the river. Yan Changqing narrowed his eyes and looked at a distant ship, a sharp light flashed in his black glass-like eyes.
It was a long and narrow boat, cutting through the vast fog, and approaching him at a very fast speed. There was neither cargo nor people on board.
It was by no means an ordinary boat.
Yan Changqing frowned. He slowly withdrew his left foot a step, and gently stroked the hilt of the swords on his waist.
The two swords waited to be unsheathed.
With a soft sound, the bow of the boat touched the stern of the large cargo ship. A dark figure suddenly flipped up from the boat. Yan Changqing tightened his lips, withdrew a step back, and the two swords were unsheathed——
But he saw that the man did not even try to dodge. His toes lightly touched the surface of the water, his clothes fluttered, and he fell behind Yan Changqing quite calmly.
“Tsk tsk tsk, what’s with Yan Daren’s face?”
Helian Rongchuan put his hands across his chest. He smiled and looked at Yan Changqing’s somewhat stiff back:
“We have only been apart for more than two days, did Yan Daren miss me?”
Yan Changqing turned around somewhat unnaturally, the expression on his face as if he had seen a ghost.
The temper snow stones had been handed over the day before yesterday, this person should have returned to Dongyun long ago, how could he be here?!