At Tantai Jin’s words, Lan An couldn’t help but think a little further.
She returned to her room with a heavy heart. Although she had mentally prepared herself, she still felt a sense of helplessness when she saw Tantai Jin swallowing the inner cores. Her servant girl came over and massaged her temples, “Madam, are you feeling unwell again?”
Lan An hoarsely said, “Lately, I’ve been thinking of Yue Kongyi a lot.”
The servant girl froze, not daring to respond.
She was Lan An’s confidant and trusted aide, having been with her for more than ten years. She watched Jing Lan An go from being a female court official to the wife of the Yiyue Tribe’s leader.
Back then, Tantai Jin was sent to Great Xia as a hostage prince from the defeated Zhou Kingdom. Lan An knew that if things were as they seemed, His Highness would not survive. She ostensibly broke off her relationship with Tantai Jin, abandoned him, and appealed to the Emperor of Zhou to let her leave the palace.
After a hard and miserable journey, she arrived at the Yiyue Tribe’s territory. Back then, Lan An was young and pretty. She was very skilled and well known for her needlework.
She taught the people of the Yiyue Tribe to spin and weave, raise silkworms, and cure food. Later, she successfully married the tribe leader of the Yiyue Tribe, Yue Kongyi. Yue Kongyi doted on Lan An very much, and during their marriage both husband and wife lived together harmoniously1琴瑟和鸣 (qínsèhémíng) – in sync/perfect harmony.
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Back then, a six-year-old boy and an eighteen-year-old woman had walked together step by step until today, so both of them had learned not to be gentle and kind.
She didn’t know if Madam Lan An regretted it. However, Yue Kongyi had already died. Even if she had regrets, it was too late.
“You go out first, I want a moment alone.”
The servant girl left and Jing Lan An took out a lock charm3They are decorated with both Chinese characters and symbols. Like other types of Chinese numismatic charms, lock charms are meant to protect the wearers from harm, misfortune, and evil spirits, and to bless them with good luck, longevity and a high rank (through the imperial examination system). In particular, it is meant for young boys, to help “lock” them to the earth, to guard them from death. (Source: Wikipedia)
Picture of it: . It had an innocent and cute design made for a child.
Jing Lan An caressed her face, she was no longer young anymore. Time passed relentlessly and a person who had raised a little demon would slowly rot in the end.
She closed her eyes and softly sighed.
It’s retribution. Inevitable retribution.
On the third day of the journey, the ship was already close to Jiayu Pass.
Jing Lan An went out and saw Tantai Jin sitting at the bow of the ship. He was dressed in a black cloak and his skin complexion was very pale, almost sickly.
The young man’s lips were red and thin. He was lowering his head, focused on polishing a sharp crossbow in his hand. The crossbow was very small and seemingly pocket-sized.
Jing Lan An came over, but Tantai Jin ignored her. His big cloak was blown around by the fierce wind. He aimed the crossbow at the water, and the moment he squeezed his finger, an arrow was shot out and a bright red colour began to emerge on the water surface.
The blood spread out along the water.
Seeing the strange shape underwater, Jing Lan An asked, “What kind of fish did Your Highness kill?”
Tantai Jin smiled, “Why doesn’t Aunt guess?”
Jing Lan An thought to herself, since this isn’t the sea, just a river channel, it can’t be something like a whale. However, its size doesn’t look like a small fish. She was still pondering when the servant girl behind her suddenly shouted “It’s…… Qi Shuang!”
Jing Lan An fixed her eyes on the water. Sure enough, it was a man floating on the water.
He looked a little familiar. He was probably the attendant that came along with Tantai Jin from Great Xia.
“Shh, be quiet,” said Tantai Jin.
The servant girl was trembling with fear and knelt down with a thump, “Your Highness, please spare my life. Your Highness, please spare my life.”
Tantai Jin ignored the servant girl as he watched the mass of blood spread out, gradually becoming a pale red. “Aunt Lan An, in the future, the people in the Night Shadow Guard must be checked once in a while.”
Tantai Jin said while laughing. He coughed and wiped blood off from the corner of his mouth.
Jing Lan An was extremely shocked, “Your Highness!”
She suddenly realized, “There was something wrong with that wolf demon?”
It was Qi Shuang who had caught the wolf demon. Its whole body was poisonous. After Tantai Jin swallowed that extremely poisonous inner core yesterday, he began to have abdominal pain.
At dawn, he asked someone to catch Qi Shuang and threw him into the water while he leaned against the ship’s railing, carefully polishing the crossbow.
“Your Highness, how are you feeling!”
Tantai Jin indifferently said, “I’m okay.”
He couldn’t live long but was unable to die. Anyway, he had grown up like this. Even when the Zhou Kingdom’s Emperor threw him, it didn’t kill him. His life was already tenacious to the point of abnormality.
Jing Lan An quickly asked someone to detoxify Tantai Jin.
This was the scene that Su Su saw when she was pushed out on deck. There was blood on the corner of his mouth and Tantai Jin was playing with a crossbow and an arrow.
The black cloth on her face was lifted and she could finally see Jing Lan An.
Su Su froze. This person seemed familiar. As she carefully recalled, she had seen this person in Tantai Jin’s dreamland. It was the palace maid that had abandoned him. No, perhaps she was a female court official.
She was the woman who had tried to teach Tantai Jin to be a good person but failed.
Jing Lan An was not as young as she had been in the dreamland. Currently, she was around thirty, but because of proper skincare, there were only faint fine lines at the ends of her eyes.
Jing Lan An looked complicated when she saw Su Su. As soon as Su Su came out, she couldn’t help but look at Tantai Jin.
Tantai Jin grabbed a handkerchief from the person beside him and stared at Su Su while he wiped off the blood from the corner of his mouth.
“Ye Xi Wu, I’ll give you a chance to leave.”
Su Su expressionlessly looked at him with her dirty little face, “Thank you. Does that mean I can go now?”
“You can try.” He said as he lifted his crossbow and aimed it at Su Su.
“I think I’m good for now. I’ll try some other time.” Su Su replied.
Tantai Jin’s hands were very steady. He threw away the bloodied handkerchief and said, “I’m afraid Ye Xiao didn’t tell you that not long ago, the garrison general of Jiayu Pass became Ye Qingyu. Your Eldest Brother is too stupidly rigid, so you’ll get to decide instead. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t stupid too.”
His eyes were full of ridicule when he spoke of the stupidity of others.
A pen and paper was placed in front of Su Su.
“Write a letter to your brother. If he lets us pass, you can leave. If not, I think an eternal sleep in the icy waters will be a good way to die.”
Su Su’s expression changed. She didn’t expect that her Eldest Brother was stationed at Jiayu Pass. If Ye Qingyu lets Tantai Jin pass, he’ll be considered a traitor to the empire when he returns. He definitely won’t be allowed to live!
If I don’t write the letter, I’m afraid Tantai Jin will immediately kill me. He wanted her to decide whether she or Ye Qingyu would die.
Although he was smiling, his gaze was exceptionally cold, even colder than before. Like a lion that was inexplicably enraged and was about to bite her to death in order to defend its territory.
Su Su didn’t understand why his attitude was suddenly so extreme after not seeing him for a few days.
Lan An’s eyes slightly flickered and her expression was complicated. With their power, they could actually get through Jiayu Pass with a little effort. After all, a single small pass would not be difficult for the soldiers of the Yiyue Tribe.
However, His Highness let Third Lady Ye decide, as if he was playing with her.
This was already a cruel and difficult decision to make. It was either she dies, or her brother dies. And most people weren’t that selfless.
In that case——
His Highness was actually incorrigible and wanted to see Third Lady Ye abandon her Eldest Brother in order to save herself. He seemed to hope that she was utterly despicable.
Lan An’s expression looked odd and she looked at Tantai Jin once again.
The young man’s pitch-black pupils fell upon Su Su. It seemed like ever since she’d arrived he’d been watching her, coldly and mockingly, with disgust and impatience, repulsed by that messy girl. However…… Even if you hated someone, you wouldn’t give them this degree of attention.
He was acting more fanatical than when he had coldly polished weapons or sadistically killed demons for their inner cores.
On the contrary, Su Su seemed much calmer. In the beginning, she was rather at a loss, then she deeply frowned and looked at Tantai Jin like he was crazy.
“After ten minutes, if Miss Ye can’t finish, cut off her useless hands and send them to Ye Qingyu.”
Su Su received this threat while a cold, sharp knife was placed across her wrist.
Sensing a dangerous situation, the Curved Jade slightly vibrated, as if it wanted to forcefully activate itself. Su Su restrained the jade bracelet on her wrist and comforted it in her heart——
“Don’t be afraid, it’s not that bad yet.”
Curved Jade knew that Su Su wouldn’t choose to save her life by hurting her Eldest Brother. It was afraid that its Little Master would abandon her life in order to protect a mortal.
Su Su said, “Let’s make a bet.”
Her rumpled clothing swayed in the wind off the river. She paused and picked up the pen.
Not far away, Tantai Jin clasped his hands and pressed them against his jaw, looking disdainful.
Su Su glanced at him and started to write.
The knife shifted away and a moment later, Su Su finished writing. The soldier picked up the paper and handed it to Tantai Jin. He took the paper.
However, the smile at the corners of his mouth lasted only an instant before it turned cold, at a speed visible to the naked eye.
Jing Lan An saw that his hand was firmly gripping the paper.
Su Su smiled as the dense early morning mist spread across the surface of the water.
Jing Lan An subconsciously glanced at the paper in Tantai Jin’s hand and saw that it was actually a painting.
In the painting, a woman figure was skewering a man with a sword.
There were a few big words written below. “Aren’t you quite conceited? Believe it or not, one day, I’ll stab you to death!”
Jing Lan An looked over at Su Su in shock and amazement, as if she was seeing her for the first time. Tantai Jin’s reaction was much more violent than hers.
He raised his crossbow and shot at Su Su.
Su Su quickly jumped back, her arms outspread to keep her balance.
Before they knew it, she grabbed a handful of powder, and with a flick of her hand, scattered the poison over the people around her.
Jing Lan An recognised that it was actually their Yiyue Tribe’s drug powder. When did Third Lady Ye run out and steal it?
Su Su took an embroidered shoe off her foot and threw it at Tantai Jin. “Don’t be disgusting. You’d have better luck dreaming than getting me to harm my Eldest Brother!”
Su Su’s pretty pearly white toes stepped onto the ship. She ran so fast that by the time Tantai Jin caught the shoe, she was already sitting on the ship’s railing.
She lowered her head and took a glance. The water in winter looked cold enough to freeze people to death. They were too far from shore and it seemed like there was no hope in sight.
She didn’t have time to hesitate as an arrow whooshed out behind her.
At the same time Tantai Jin shot the crossbow arrow, Su Su resolutely dived into the river. The cold water was so icy that Su Su gasped.
One after another, the sound of sharp arrows slicing through the air swished out around her, their sharp whistling intending to keep her here.
She endured the cold and the fear, not daring to look back and see how angry Tantai Jin was as she nimbly dodged the crossbow arrows and swam forward through it all.
She was like a brave little fish with no fear of death. She swam further and further away without looking back.
Ten crossbow arrows were fired in rapid succession, but all of them sank into the water.
Tantai Jin’s face was expressionless. He watched her getting further and further away, until even the corners of her clothes had disappeared from sight. He firmly bit onto the corner of his mouth until his lips turned white, then finally ruthlessly laughed. He lifted his hand and threw the crossbow into the water, the splash raising circles of ripples.
An exquisite mint-colored embroidered shoe fell on the deck, looking extremely out of place on the ship.
Tantai Jin stepped on the shoe and walked into the cabin without another word.
His gloomy look made everyone retreat4退避三舍 (tuìbì-sānshè) – literative meaning: to retreat three day’s march; figurative meaning: to give way in the face of superior strength/give way to avoid a conflict/a strategic redrawal.
Everything happened so suddenly that everyone couldn’t help but remember Su Su’s final smile.
She had looked at Tantai Jin with disdain and annoyance. With the vast river behind her, she drew a painting, scolded him, then ran away. Even crossbow arrows weren’t enough to intimidate her into looking back.
Jing Lan An stood on the ship for a long time, looking towards the direction where Su Su had disappeared.
In such cold weather, Third Lady Ye probably wouldn’t survive. She had chosen her Eldest Brother, Ye Qingyu, and abandoned herself, humiliating His Highness in the process.
Even though Jing Lan An and Su Su were on different sides, she had to admit that she5Su Su was really dazzling.
Like a light that no one could hide from.
The author has something to say:
Su Su: Do you think this painting’s okay?
Edited by: Gaze