The Great Spiritual Pagoda, the Palace of Heaven.
The Xingshan Temple was a sprawling giant that arched up into the clouds. It seemed to cup the red rays of the sun in its cusp. White jade railings overlapped atop one another and the ocean of green glazed tiles beneath the shade of the ancient tree was an unbroken plain.
Consort Dowager’s carriage paused in front of the temple and two palace maids in light red robes helped her alight from it.
The Consort Dowager was already forty years of age but she had maintained herself delicately. Her oval face was blessed with a charming pair of eyes, she had merely a few small wrinkles around the corners of her eyes, and her thin lips seemed to have a faint upward curvature to them: When she was younger, she had been an absolutely beautiful person.
This favored consort of the previous emperor was clad in royal purple supplemented by a fresh autumn yellow motif. Her noble aura deliberately held in it a youthful texture. She lowered her precious head ornament, her hair was done up with only a single hairpin, and looked out of the horse carriage as if she was pondering over something. She lowered her engraved golden nail guards1  Nail guard: The thing dowager consorts wear on their pinky and ring finger. and elegantly handed it over to the temple slave girl.
There was another carriage that followed closely behind hers. The palace maid Peiyun first jumped off of the carriage and then extended her hand into the carriage to support Princess Duanyang down.
Li Songmin was born with a face that closely resembled Dowager Consort Zhao’s. Her eyes were both large and lustrous. But, born as a princess, she didn’t need to care about what others thought and thus held more confidence in her aura. There was always a sense of arrogant indifference in her attitude.
Dowager Consort Zhao was waiting in place for her daughter to approach her. However, as soon as she saw her colourful clothes and unhurried appearance, her brows tightened: “Peiyun, how did you pick clothes for the princess?”
Peiyun was frightened and turned around to take a glance at Duanyang’s expression. The princess acted cute as she pulled on Dowager Consort Zhao’s arm, “Consort Mother, I was the one who chose the outfit. Today’s weather is so nice, it’s a great day to come out and take a gander.”
”Songmin, how many times have I repeated myself? In front of Buddha, you must humble yourself.” She paused for a moment upon seeing Duanyang’s rather languid and unwell countenance. She then rubbed her eyes and softly spoke in heartache: “Did you have a nightmare again?”
She turned around to search with her eyes and saw Liu Fuyi’s figure standing at the foot of a mountain. Her expression somewhat cleared up and she held Duanyang’s hand as she lowered her voice: “Consort Mother has found a way to solve the issue. It’s most likely that we were far too insincere before, and as such, garnered the wrath of the deities… this time, Consort Mother has donated 300 jin of incense money. I will personally kowtow and apologize. You will definitely no longer have nightmares.”
Duanyang’s face was full of disapproval and was about to start a dispute but in the end gave up in disappointment.
She followed her mother’s faint gaze and saw, under the dark blue skies, the figure of a young man standing beneath the distant array of green mountains. He stood extremely straight and upright. His sleeves and black hair danced along with the wind, seemingly exactly like an exiled immortal.
She wanted to give him a few more curious glances but before she knew it, they had already arrived at the entrance of the main hall. Dowager Consort pulled her into the hall and a wall of sandalwood fragrance hit her face. The door slowly closed behind her. Dowager Consort Zhao slightly tilted her head to the side, with half of her face in the shadows: “All of you wait at the gate.”
The temple slave girls respectfully tucked their sleeves, lined up and guarded the entrance.
The scorching sun
had already started to duck its head. Occasionally a peal of wind would blow by and cause the omnipresent pine and cypress to shake, causing waves of sound to flow through the air. In the midst of all this softness, the majestic temple halls were completely motionless.
The fragmented pieces of sunlight that broke through the leaves fell onto Liu Fuyi’s face. His pleasant voice was low as he recited: “Azure stream mountain softly flowing along, transported to the flower palace.”
Mu Yao’s voice was just like precious gems colliding, cold and pleasant to listen to: “…the mossy green of the morning rain, the wind’s sound in an autumn’s midnight.”
Hearing her voice, he turned around and smiled at her.
“When did sis learn this poem? Why did I not know of this?” Mu Sheng slightly squinted at her as he habitually broke apart this warm and harmonious scene.
Mu Yao was in a good mood and laughed a bit as she raised her chin: “I just learned it.”
Mu Sheng turned his head around to see not too far away, a wall hidden from view by a tree. On it, some unknown scholar had wrote out a poem in bold strokes,
Ling Miaomiao quietly giggled to herself but when Mu Sheng shot her a I-will-remember-that-and-I-will-come-for-you look, she was scared and shrunk into the area behind Liu Fuyi’s back. When she stuck out her head to peruse the situation, she saw that Mu Sheng’s fresh and youthful face was completely dark and couldn’t help but sneakily laugh.
Getting to watch Asuras everyday sure was a wonderful life.
“Yao’er, have you sensed demonic qi?” Liu Fuyi was playing around with the exquisite little Nine Mysterious Demon Restraining Pagoda as he entered serious contemplation.
“I haven’t.” Mu Yao didn’t hesitate, “However, I don’t think that the Princess would be entangled by nightmares for no reason at all. Only, Dowager Consort Zhao doesn’t want us to insert ourselves yet so investigating is very difficult. It’s like we have our hand and feet tied up.”
Liu Fuyi reasoned: “Family skeletons are best kept in the closet, never mind the secrets of the imperial family.”
Mu Sheng surveyed the majestic imperial temple through the long, layered railing. Behind the red pillars strewn about was two ranks of experienced temple slave girls.
He suddenly coldly smiled: “Very soon, she’ll have no choice but to share this imperial family secret with us.”
“Believer Zhao Qinru has brought her daughter Li Songmin…” WIth her purple skirt fanned out on the floor, Dowager Consort Zhao’s arm was slightly trembling.
Her voice grew more and more quiet, till it was almost as if she was talking to herself: “Since I’ve been told I was born a goddess, I should have endless good fortune right? Why… why do I feel like I keep falling deeper into an abyss?”
On the throne of lotuses sat a massive golden greeting Buddha. It had a slight downward tilt and a slight smile as if it was overlooking the world and all the common people. Duanyang, who was kneeling in the hall, didn’t dare raise her head. She only felt that the vivid and lifelike image was like a ball of golden light pressing down on her head.
She felt alarmed and uneasy yet Dowager Consort Zhao still had her eyes shut as she kneeled there muttering:
”This believer has followed your instructions and offered everything I have as offerings. Buddha, please protect my child’s health and body, to no longer be afflicted with nightmares… karma from those early days should all be put on my body. Those malicious people…” A sudden explosion of scenes and memories flashed through her brain and her tightly shut eyes flew open with a ruthless and determined look shining out: “Have all gone into the depths of hell, never to be reincarnated!”
After her outburst of her hopes, she seemed to have removed a pillar from her heart. She heaved a long sigh of relief as she stood up, cleaned her hands at the table, and lit up six sticks of incense to insert into the censer. Immediately after, she kneeled down on the praying mat again. She raised her hands and put them together in prayer and raised them high above her head. Then, she lowered them down to the side of her mouth and stopped for a moment before moving her hands down to her solar plexus. Opening her hands, she pointed up with the center of her palms as her upper body piously prostrated on the ground.
The smoke curled up the air, rising at a tilted angle.
“Minmin, hurry come and kneel too.” She hastily called Duanyan and pulled the unwilling girl to kneel on the prayer mat.
The scent of sandalwood was heavy and she was somewhat absentminded when a soft voice appeared in her ear: “Goddess…”
Duanyang felt a gust of wind, almost like an arm, brush past her spine.
In that instant, her forehead grew numb and she leaped immediately like a cat whose tail was stepped on: “Consort Mother! Do you hear that? Did you hear that as well…”
In her ear, more and more voices joined in: “Goddess… Goddess, quickly follow us…”
OId voices, young voices. Male voices and female voices. Joy-filled voices and anxious voices…
The voices layered atop of each other had suddenly been scattered by the gale, the air was suddenly shattered by the revolving currents and the voices were no longer clear. They had slowly become the whimpers of the wind.
The light in front of her eyes slowly grew dark. A long dark passage extended out before her. Both sides were dimly lit, and Bodhisattvas2  Bodhisattvas: People who are on the path to Buddhahood… It’s hard to explain as I don’t understand buddhism at all lol. of all colors and appearance lined the sides.
Very fitting of the imperial family, the Buddhas were made out of pure gold and the Guanyin’s3  Guanyin is the Buddhist Bodhisattva associated with compassion. Some call her the ‘Goddess of Mercy’. white jade, they were statues of pure imposingness. Eminent and out of reach. However, the Bodhisattvas in front of her eyes were fully verdant green, indigo blue, vermillion red, rattan yellow, etc… They were like the colorful clay statues of deities in the public temples: Beautiful yet bizarre.
Duanyang looked at this all with incredulity as her face grew so red it looked as if blood was going to drip off.
Those Bodhisattvas were extremely life-like, each and every fold of their clothes were vividly realistic, not to mention their expressions:
The men and women all were half undressed. Countless bands of gold adorned their wrists and they were placed in little groups of two or three. They were completely revealing what ought to be kept private: They were in all kinds of twisting positions that could cause people to feel speechless, indulging in the pleasures of the flesh. They should have been cold and lifeless Buddhas but they were more shameless and wild than the men and women of the mortal world…
Duanyang felt a wave of voices assault her ear, “Goddess, we’ve waited here for you for a very long time.”
Her face turned from red to green and her teeth started to chatter. There was only one thought left in her mind.
The nightmare. The nightmare became a reality.
In between her breaths, she nearly felt as if there was cotton stuffing up her lung. As if she was afraid of some invisible hand catching her, she ran away like a blind person falling apart in a land of ice and snow, she roared out with a shaky voice: “I won’t go… don’t call me! Don’t call me!”
“Minmin? Minmin?!” Dowager Consort Zhao saw Duanyang suddenly turn insane and start shouting. The princess was using her hands to slap at the air and Dowager Consort Zhao hastily ran over to pull her but was suddenly pushed to the side.
Duanyang’s face was ashen as she threw herself onto the closed hall door. She cried out mournfully a few times before her movements suddenly slowed. Black blood flowed out of her ears and drew out a very long, very obvious long across her neck.
Dowager Consort Zhao felt an explosion go off in her head. She let out a shaky shrill scream: “My child—–!! Someone come! Somebody, come now!”
Suddenly a soft voice appeared in her ear. It was full of derision and mocking, rushing in like a cold gale into her ears: “Believer Zhao Qinru, are you not worshipping in the wrong place?”
Dowager Consort Zhao’s face, which had gone red from anxiety, suddenly turned pale. She took a few steps back and spun her head around at a loss.
“Don’t call me…” The princess’s mournful voice grew more and more weak. She started to fall backwards but the moment she softly fell over, she saw the hall door being pushed in from the outside. Immediately, all the terrifying voices disappeared and there was only the chirping of insects from the trees around left in her ear.
The cool breeze brought with it an influx of scarlet from the sunset. The sky was resplendent with beautiful color, and it was all behind a person.
Liu Fuyi stably caught the princess’s body and his cool gaze brushed over the gloomy hall before falling onto the dumbstruck face of Dowager Consort Zhao.
”Your Highness.” He called out to remind her without any other movement. He purposely raised his voice as he said: “The princess has passed out, do we need to call an Imperial Physician?”
Liu Fuyi’s back was ramrod straight as he was entirely on guard. His Nine Mysterious Demon Restraining Pagoda was in his sleeve and the moment it caught even the slightest wisp of demonic qi, this treasure would leap out and light up everything to make sure that the mischief causing entity would have no place to hide.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any demonic qi. As the hot night wind blew through his hair, the glow of sunset from the horizon reflected off the golden image of Buddha sitting on its throne of lotuses. It was both dignified and solemn, an exceptionally magnificent view.
Upon seeing the Buddha, the slave girls outside the temple didn’t dare look closely as they all evenly knelt down at the gate. Past their shining hair, the steed of the carriage was sweeping its tail around out of boredom and the entire place was silent except for the everpresent sound of the wind.
Liu Fuyi’s sleeves were flapping in the wind as he held the princess in his arms.
”Right…” Dowager Consort Zhao’s chaotic breathing slowly calmed down. She crumpled up her handkerchief before reaching out and running a hand through her hair. She finally recovered some of her dignity: “The princess has fainted. Come, we will return to the palace.”
Dowager Consort Zhao slowly neared Liu Fuyi and the serious faced Mu Yao beside him. She still seemed distressed at heart as her voice wilted: “There’s something truly wrong with the temple… please, help us.”
“Dowager Consort Your Highness……” Mu Yao’s clear eyes stared at her. There was concealed repulsion within those glassy eyes, “There’s no demonic qi in the temple.”
Dowager Consort Zhao was shocked into trembling: “Impossible!”
”Why is it impossible?” A languid voice rang out from amongst the crowd.
Mu Sheng’s snow white face was half concealed in the shadows. There were only his glossy black pupils visible. They looked like a constellation was reflected in them, a pair of earth-shattering brushes of light in the dark.
Upon seeing his face, a look of fright flashed through Dowager Consort Zhao’s face and her mouth subconsciously twitched.
Mu Sheng pinched the remaining half a stick of incense from the original six. He walked out of the darkness and unhappily entered the view of everyone on the scene: “A mere bit of hallucinogens caused you all to be scared to such a degree?”
He didn’t bother with Dowager Consort Zhao’s expression as he lowered his head to lift up the tablecloth of the table with the censer on it: “Miaomiao, hurry up, would you?”
From behind the censer table, Miaomiao crawled out holding two big sticks of incense in her hand:
“The incense that hasn’t been burnt yet is all here, when we return, we’ll investigate.”
 Nail guard: The thing dowager consorts wear on their pinky and ring finger.
 Bodhisattvas: People who are on the path to Buddhahood… It’s hard to explain as I don’t understand buddhism at all lol.
 Guanyin is the Buddhist Bodhisattva associated with compassion. Some call her the ‘Goddess of Mercy’.
TLN: Cough cough. Lol. I kinda disappeared off the face of the planet for almost 2 months huh. Kinda crazy how fast time flies by… anyways, I’m back and posts will resume as per normal: 2 chapters a week.
If any of y’all were wondering why I didn’t translate for Christmas break, it’s because we don’t have such a thing here… I know, very saddening. My break starts at the end of next week so… 🙂
It’s been so long since I translated that I forgot pretty much everything that has happened in the story so far hahahaha. Oh well, enjoy!