Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Meng Fuyao had been caught red-handed but she chose not to flee. Instead, with a leg dangling off each side of the wall, she hugged her chest, sighing "Isn't the sunshine just brilliant today?"
A few drops of ice-cold rain fell with the howling of the wind before specks of snow drifted down.
As in reveling in it, Meng Fuyao added, "Perfect temperature..."
Having eulogized the weather, Meng Fuyao took her own sweet time to get down, and walked toward Zong Yue's door matter-of-factly.
However, she stopped before his door and sniffed around. "This herb smells horrible," she commented.
When Meng Fuyao turned her head, she caught sight of Zong Yue sitting on the ground in a lotus position. His face was slightly pale, and there was an empty bowl on the table beside him, from which the smell was spreading.
Noting that Meng Fuyao had seen it, Zong Yue withdrew his gaze. With a wave of his sleeve, the window closed, almost slamming onto her nose.
Meng Fuyao retreated while touching her nose. She could not help but wonder if Zong Yue was prescribing mixed herbs or if he was injured. Eventually, she decided to stay away from the secretive man.
She proceeded into her room to freshen up, and Yao Xun brought in a tray of food for breakfast. Reminded of her hunger, Meng Fuyao dashed to the table and started gorging herself. She wiped her mouth clean and then asked, "This green congee tastes really special. Is it made from aromatic herb-infused grains?"
Yao Xun shrugged. "No idea. Sir Zong had me bring it in for you."
"Eh?" Meng Fuyao jumped, quickly operating a circulatory cycle to test her energy flow. Neither sensing any anomaly nor trusting Zong Yue's character, she sat back down, racking her brains. "Have you given him the fake herbs?"
"Yeah," replied Yao Xun, somewhat pleased. "I had planned to get the real leaves, but those were tough and difficult to pound. The fake ones were much easier to smash, so I gave those to him, and he didn't seem to notice. Holy doctor? Ahah."
Halfway through his explanation Meng Fuyao had already sprinted out of the room. Puzzled, Yao Xun followed behind, only to see her squatting before the grass and wailing.
"D*mn... Yin Yang Grass... am I blind..."
Meng Fuyao's knees touched the ground, and her butt was protruded as she whimpered and dug into the soil. Her eyes were wide open.
In between digging, she would touch her face – The Ying Yang Grass had the ability to reverse one's energy. For a Yang person, it could cure diseases involving deficiencies, but for a Yin person, the grass would cause a spike in Yang energy in the form of acne, which would keep growing in size unless treated with medicine.
She had injured her foot while lifting a rock and dropping it accidentally. Hence, she was left with no choice but to lay sprawled on the ground to search for the antidote, which was also the seed of the Yin Yang Grass. The seeds were extremely tiny and well-dispersed so she wasn't able to gather enough for a single application.
Meng Fuyao sighed, straightening her back before turning toward Zong Yue's house. She gritted her teeth and shot a million daggers into his house, only to remember that he had gone out to cure King De's illness and wasn't in to see it. As she was looking down in anger, Meng Fuyao remembered an abandoned garden that she had passed by a few days ago. In that garden was an abundance of Yin Yang Grass, and she figured that it would be easier to gather seeds.
She dragged Yao Xun to the northwestern corner of King De's residence, where the abandoned garden was situated. From afar the walls appeared to be peeled off while its roof was torn and tattered. Nevertheless, they were well-constructed, enough to attract spiders to lay their webs. The dried tree branches dangling over the walls swayed in the winter breeze, producing a gloomy and heavy atmosphere.
The duo quickly located the Yin Yang Grass and got to work. A long while later, as they were about to leave with a sufficient amount of seeds, Yao Xun stopped. "There seems to be someone living in this garden, Miss Meng."
Meng Fuyao turned around and was shocked to spot a white garment hanging off a branch. The strong winds must have blown it over.
It was already odd that this declining garden existed in King De's luxurious residence in the first place, but the fact that someone was residing in it was astonishing.
Meng Fuyao took a few steps forward and pushed the door, but it was locked. Its lock was completely rusted. After some thought, she went on to climb the wall.
Yao Xun tried to pull her down but was he was kicked to the ground instead.
Meng Fuyao landed on the other side, immediately noticing that it was in a worse condition than the garden. There were weeds and dried up flowers growing everywhere. They were even covering half the door. As Meng Fuyao walked on through the quiet surroundings, her breathing became audible.
Her gaze fell upon the door knocker. It was a pair of exquisite-looking bells, engraved with sumptuous decorative designs. Of course, the grooves were black, and the bells were covered in dirt.
The wind blew, but the bells were still. Amid the dead silence, the friction between the rubbing of dried leaves on the ground produced a hissing sound like that of a snake.
A loud, mournful voice broke the silence. "Zhangsun Wuji! You impure-blooded, scheming plotter!"
It was a woman's voice, so hoarse, menacing and blood-filled that it could almost numb one's senses.
The window screen beside Meng Fuyao broke, and a pair of thin, black hands shot out to grab Meng Fuyao's left shoulder.
At the same time, the sharp voice rang, "...you're here, you're here! Let's die together, hahaha..."
Meng Fuyao's pupils shrank. The hands clutching onto her arm were bony and veiny. There was also dirt under her fingernails and brown spots all over. It was a pair of heroic yet weakened hands. In fact, the hands did not even get a steady grip of Meng Fuyao. They were shaking in the wind, but still ceaselessly attempting to dig into her skin.
Meng Fuyao flicked a finger, sending a wisp of wind force to whip those ghastly claws backward. Immediately after, a husky shout reverberated throughout the room interior, and before it fell, Meng Fuyao had already entered through the door.
The interior was, as expected, in a state so poor that Meng Fuyao was convinced it was the room of a lunatic. Things were thrown all over the floor, and the layer of dust that had already gathered was a few inches thick. The girl was dressed in tattered, dull clothes, her hair draping down messily and her body releasing a sour odor.
Meng Fuyao caught sight of a broken bed nearby, and on it were blotches of light and dark yellow stains; the smell was overwhelming. Upon closer inspection, Meng Fuyao identified the stains as excrement.
The girl stared, panic-stricken, at Meng Fuyao. Her hair was half covering her frantically darting eyes. Her goblinish eyes were luminous and restless amid the desolate environment.
"Zhangsun Wuji... you demon..."
The voice trilled through space, eerily quiet and filled with hatred. From the tone of her voice, if Zhangsun Wuji were present, the woman would most definitely rip him into pieces before gobbling them up.
Doubt flashed across Meng Fuyao's eyes. Who was this woman and why was she confined in an abandoned garden? How did she get entangled with the nation's honorable crown prince? She was spouting nonsense and vilifying him, but why hadn't King De sent any guard to restrain her? Why had he left her to perish on her own?
Meng Fuyao took a step forward to get a clearer view of the woman. But before she did so, a soft cough sounded from behind.
She stopped, looking the madwoman straight in the eye and catching the reflection of a slender white figure. It was Zong Yue.
What she found strange was the fact that Zong Yue's cough was intended for her, but he was, like her, staring straight into the woman's eyes.
Meng Fuyao quickly scanned over the woman once more before smiling and slowly retreating behind the door. Then, she carefully locked it.
Turning around, she saw Zong Yue calmly looking at her.
"Although you're just a servant, you should understand basic etiquette, like not running about in someone else's home." His tone was calm, but his words made Meng Fuyao's blood boil.
Her eyes lit up, blade-like, and she clenched her teeth harder than the madwoman. "Although you're just an egotistical swine, you should understand that certain behaviors are despicable, like following and spying on a woman," she retorted.
Zong Yue kept his eyes on her, responding, "You're a woman? Oh... sorry, I keep forgetting." With that, he made an apologetic bow.
Smoke was almost shooting out from Meng Fuyao's nose. A moment later she puffed out her chest and sucked in her waist, choosing to walk past him without a word.
As Meng Fuyao brushed past him, she slammed her shoulder to the left, catching Zong Yue, who seemed to be in a daze, off guard and effectively knocking him to the side.
She quickly put on a smile, lifted her head and basked in the warm, soothing sunlight. Her eyes were radiant and lively.
"Losing your balance this easily? Are you really a man? I'm sorry. I had always thought you as a man, but I guess I was wrong."
She bent her waist, acting apologetically, but before she could finish her bow, she burst into maniacal laughter and walked off, leaving Zong Yue deep in thought.
The winter breeze was cutting, and a lady's fragrance, faint but delightful, drifted along with it.
After some time, Zong Yue smiled. He thought about the way she had puffed her chest and how the sunlight had enhanced her beautiful silhouette. Indeed, he had been captivated and lost himself for a moment, causing him to stumble for the first time ever.
His smile was like the flowers in winter time, subtle yet dazzlingly bright.
"You're actually very feminine..."
Night fell, but few stars came out to play. The moonlight was dim and being overpowered by the lights radiating from a brothel situated in the eastern alley corner. Cast onto the street was Meng Fuyao's long, slender shadow.
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