Chapter 37 The Desert Kiss Part 2
Three days later, King Dongyun fell seriously ill and was unable to go to court. Suddenly, Helian Tao held military and political power, and the scene was unparalleled.
Everyone knew that Dongyun was about to change.
The court officials were talking in private spiritedly. Those who stood on the wrong team resigned in a hurry, preferring to keep their heads. While those who supported the correct side, rushed to the Crown Prince’s palace to showcase their loyalty.
These days the most relaxed person in the entire Dongyun Dynast was probably the ignorant second prince Helian Rongchuan. The veteran officials in the court held contempt toward him. Some were puzzled, but most of them hated that he failed to meet their expectations and stroked their gray beards, sighing in disappointment.
Alas, born so clever, but refusing to learn and only causing trouble. After finally marrying the princess, they hoped he would curb his attitude, but they never thought he would marry an assassin that almost took the life of their King.
It was rumoured that he had merit in helping protect the King – blocking the deadliest blow for King Dongyun. But they didn’t see him serving at the bedside of King Dongyun to please him. Day and night it was the Crown Prince who knelt by the King’s bedside and looked after him without rest.
Alas, he could have competed with the Crown Prince for great credit in the eyes of the King yet he had let this opportunity go. As the saying goes – rotten wood cannot be carved.
Helian Rongchuan didn’t hear the sighs of the old ministers. He whipped his horse and like a burst of smoke, rode out of the palace to the edge of a cliff outside the city.
With a long neigh, the horse stopped less than ten feet away from the cliff, balancing on its hooves a little nervously. The cliff here was steep, and the rocks at the foot were coloured black and dark red. These colours made it seem like every stone was painted with human blood.
Vultures hovered above his head calling out to each other loudly. On the edge of the cliff stood three or four Dongyun executioners dressed in all black. When hearing the sound of an approaching horse they turned their heads and bowed in salute.
Helian Rongchuan sashayed over and looked at the figure before him. The death row prisoner was kneeling on the edge of the cliff, a black cloth over their head. The second prince of Dongyun said, “You guys go, I will see to this matter personally.”
The next moment a heavy gold ingot was smoothly thrown at the execution leader. The leader picked it up and his normally shy expression was brightened by a smile. He thought that Helian Rongchuan hated to part with the No. 1 beauty of Nan Yao, so he came to see his little lover in person for the last time. He withdrew in a hurry.
The black cloth fell, revealing Xuanji’s pale face. She was tortured, scarred, and even though she was an extremely beautiful person, she was very obviously in a sorry state at this time. What’s more, less than three inches behind her was the abyss where the bones of countless dead laid buried——Diegu cliff. (Cliff of layers of bones)
Diegu cliff was for punishing sinners. Any offender that the Dongyun imperial family personally found difficult to deal with would be thrown into this valley. They call it the glorified name of “setting free”, but in reality, it meant just being thrown into this abyss. There wasn’t any possibility for survival, forget about being free. This just helped to fatten up the vultures which have grown to love the taste of human flesh and blood.
Xuanji was the daughter of Nan Yao’s clan. So Dongyun ordered her to be thrown off the cliff because she was not easy to deal with publicly.
Xuanji glanced behind her, trembling in fear. The last bit of bruises on her face have almost faded away, but she spoke with hesitation: “Good, you are here now. Even if I am to turn into a ghost, I can be a ghost at peace. I want to ask you, when did you discover my plan?”
Helian Rongchuan looked at her with a barely-there smile: “From the moment you rescued me under the cliff of Qixia Village.”
Xuanji’s eyes widened in disbelief. Impossible! No matter the time or place of their first meeting, she has thought this plan through countless times and a long time in advance. How could it be that her true intentions were discovered right from the beginning?
Six years ago, King Dongyun travelled all over the country with a dozen brothers from the Helian clan. While on their journey, they stopped in a beautiful valley for about half a month. This valley was called the Valley of Beauty. As the name suggests, many beautiful people lived there. However, after the departure of these dozen imperial clan members, what remained of the Valley of Beauty was just crochet earth. All the local beauties went missing.
Rumour was the women of the Valley of Beauty were not only beautiful but also extremely strong-tempered. Because they refused to become those nasty people’s playthings, they were all burned to death in the valley by the depraved kings and nobles.
However, this was just a legend. National power was declining, and the Nan Yao kingdom’s Lord, who had always relied on Dongyun for assistance, had no guts. He had no intention of arguing with the powerful Dongyun kingdom over the lives of one or two hundred civilian women.
As a survivor of the Valley of Beauty, Xuanji didn’t know how much pain and shame she had endured before she finally walked up to King Dongyun and drew her blade of revenge. How could it be possible that the opportunity she had finally grasped, the countless plans, working to perfect things day and night, had been seen through by Helian Rongchuan in the first instant of seeing her?
Helian Rongchuan sighed when he saw her expression of irritation, and gently unbuttoned his shirt, exposing half of his strong chest. Two inches below his collarbone, there was a purple-black arrow wound that had not healed yet completely.
“If you would’ve chosen your words wisely, maybe I would have genuinely believed you.”
Xuanji was stunned for a moment, not knowing which sentence made her intentions so obvious.
“After you saved me, you told me that my wounds were not healing because the person who shot the arrow was extremely vicious. You claimed that to kill me, he even smeared the arrow with poison. But as soon as you said this, I knew that the person who hindered my recovery must be you.”
Xuanji asked automatically. She did indeed deliberately delay Helian Rongchuan’s recovery. She wanted to take care of his serious injury and get the opportunity to enter the Dongyun Palace and assassinate King Dongyun. Every time she put medicine on Helian Rongchuan’s wound to delay healing, she was extremely cautious and measured. Even the closest maid never knew what Xuanji was applying wasn’t the correct ointment.
How could Helian Rongchuan discover her deception in the first place?
“You don’t understand. The person who shot me with an arrow, in reality, saved my life.”
Helian Rongchuan’s eyes turned soft, and he reached for a small kit from the skirt of his clothes. Inside it was a small silver arrowhead. It came from the same arrow that injured Helian Rongchuan the day he fell into the river.
“Since he was saving me, how could he pick a poisoned arrow?”
Xuanji’s gaze was unfocused: “Why do you still keep this thing?”
“For you, it is just a cold arrow. But to me, it is the most valuable treasure in the world. Why wouldn’t I keep it?”
Helian Rongchuan’s mouth quirked up in a smile. So many sharp and deadly silver arrows pointed at him that day. Yan Changqing is no doubt the No. 1 archer of the Great Yan Kingdom. How did this one lose its power while in his capable hands? How did it only get him half an inch above his chest? Helian Rongchuan’s fingers gently stroked the cold arrowhead, as if stroking the face of a lover. His gaze, the corners of his eyes and his eyebrows telegraphed such nostalgia and tenderness, lighting up his whole face. Xuanji hasn’t ever seen such a display of love before.
Seeing such an expression on Helian Rongchuan’s face, he was completely lost in his memories now, Xuanji suddenly felt a sort of sourness wash over her. This feeling grasped at her heart. The jealousy she now felt was alien to her.
“It turns out that your Royal Highness has long had a person you admired. I take pride in being Nan Yao’s first beauty and countless men are ready to grovel under my skirt. Yet I didn’t expect that in your Highness’s heart, I can’t compare to that person.”
Xuanji looked at Helian Rongchuan’s handsome profile. Longing and reluctance suddenly appeared in her heart. The same heart that just seconds ago was ready to welcome death:
“It’s a pity I will never have a chance to meet the person so sacred to His Royal Highness’s heart.”
She closed her eyes and taking small steps walked closer to the edge of the cliff.
Just one leap and it would be all over.
Even if they did not reconcile. Even if she has regrets. It will all be over now.
A snapping sound tore through the air and the arms that were tied back suddenly loosened. Xuanji opened her eyes in disbelief, and looked back at Helian Rongchuan, her voice trembling: “You–?”
Helian Rongchuan tucked the horse’s rein into Xuanji’s hand and said, “Let’s go.”
Xuanji tremblingly climbed onto the horse’s back. Suddenly coming back from the gates of H*ll made her feel perplexed and at a loss for words.
“Twenty miles westward, there is a pavilion where your subordinates are waiting for you.” Helian Rongchuan smiled faintly: “The final verdict is that we the Dongyun people had wronged your clan. When there is an opportunity in the future, we will make it up to you.”
Xuanji stared at Helian Rongchuan’s face as if she were meeting the man in front of her for the first time. She regarded him for a long time. After a while, she closed her eyes and when she opened them again, tears filled her beautiful eyes. Her gaze was still bright with hatred, unwillingness to leave, pain and attachment.
Without further ado, Xuanji raised her whip and rode away.
Helian Rongchuan turned around and looked at the crown prince Helian Tao, who appeared behind him as if out of thin air. His gorgeous white silk robe was embroidered with gold clouds and stood out starkly against the cliff’s dark and foreboding appearance. Just a few days after taking on the responsibility of running the country, Helian Tao’s gray-brown eyes had lost their gentleness and humility.
“You called the shots and let her go without an authorization?” Helian Tao asked.
“Xuanji is just the knife that you and I borrowed to execute a murder.” Helian Rongchuan raised his eyebrows disapprovingly and continued:
“Since our goal has been achieved, why care about the whereabouts of the said knife?”
“With the help of Xuanji’s assassination plan, Your Royal Highness finally got what you wanted. You earned the control of military and political power, and not long after, you will come to acquire the throne. I have also gotten the chance to avenge my mother. This is the best of both worlds, isn’t it?”
“I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to see through you.” Helian Tao responded cautiously.
Helian Tao watched Helian Rongchuan enter the Dongyun Palace, and gradually grow into an unruly, cold and scheming little wolf cub. But both brothers had similar ideas, same track of thoughts and both had their plans for King Dongyun, thus they hit it off.
More recently though Helian Tao had noticed that Helian Rongchuan was no longer as compliant as before. Whether it was the ship hijacking plan on the Jiaolu river or manipulating Xuanji’s assassination attempt to have King Dongyun hand over military and political power – Helian Rongchuan was no longer cooperating as easily. He always found various reasons for doing things his way which in turn made Helian Tao puzzled or caused him to feel suspicious. For example, he desperately wanted to save General Yan’s life and he blocked a fatal wound to protect King Dongyun.
What happened to him?
Helian Rongchuan interrupted Helian Tao’s thoughts: “I remember you promised me that once you come into power, you will fulfill my two wishes.”
“I have sent someone in secret to Qixia Village to arrange all the dead to be buried. The surviving villagers will be able to part with them now” Helian Tao continued: “That was your first wish. Now have you decided what you want for your second wish?”
Helian Rongchuan finally felt a little relieved when hearing about the arrangement of affairs in Qixia Village. He looked off into the distance facing south. A trace of worry flashed in his amber eyes.
“Has the Crown Prince heard that the southern border of Yan Kingdom was hit by an earthquake? Beirong is now harassing them making it impossible for the people to make a living.”
Helian Tao nodded, somewhat puzzled by where Helian Rongchuan was going with this statement.
“I ask the Prince to give me enough manpower and food to go to Monan for disaster relief aid.”
Helian Tao thought he had misheard, and couldn’t hold back a sharp laugh: “Are you kidding?” But before the words fell, he saw that Helian Rongchuan was in fact, incredibly serious. He couldn’t help but feel stunned.
The sky was vast, and in the south, an eagle was flying fearlessly through the black and gloomy clouds.
How can he capture the eagle flying so high in the sky? It was not by breaking his wings or by hiding him in a delicate cage.
Helian Rongchuan stretched out his hand, making light caressing motions over the outline of the spread-winged eagle far away in the clouds. Then in a very calm tone, he said:
“He needs me right now.”