Book 1: Winds Begin to Blow in Tai Yuan
Chapter 17 - Plotting to Destroy Profound Origin
A woman's piercing scream broke through the stillness of the dark night. The scream was filled with madness and misery, cutting the somber sky apart into fragments like a bloodstained knife.
With a loud banging and clattering sound, inside a heavily curtained, incense-scented chamber full of splendor, an exquisite mirror carved with eight lotus flowers was heavily thrown onto the floor, the surface splitting into several cracks.
On the fragmented mirror surface was reflected a crescent-browed, straight-nosed countenance of attractive fairness; unfortunately, it had two bone-deep wounds in it, savagely intersecting and carved into her glossy skin.
The beauty of her face and the hideousness of her injuries shockingly clashed, causing one to sigh at the imperfect nature of the world.
A crowd of respectfully waiting maids surged up like the tide. Under the ferociously vicious gaze of the person in the mirror, they were forced to bow even lower, and then retreated again like the tide.
Pei Yuan swayed like she was about to fall. Supporting herself in front of the dressing table, her one hand shook while braced on the table surface. Even after desperately biting her lips, she still could not repress the shivering throughout her whole body.
Over ... it was all over ...
The appearance she was so proud of, the extreme beauty she used to distinguish herself in the Tai Yuan royal family, was completely destroyed by a random blade light in one night.
From now on, she would descend to become Tai Yuan royal family's laughingstock. From now on, all those imperial sisters whose appearances were unable to be compared to hers and were held in disdain by her, would use the most pitying looks and the warmest phrases to unceasingly comfort her.
Just thinking of those seemingly warm, but in reality bitter and cold commiserations, she would feel like she was falling into an ice pit, and want to go insane!
"Get out! All of you scram!"
The chamber was quickly cleared of people. The curtains lifted by the flow of exiting people, lightly floated back down.
Glimmering light passed through the green jade lamps, shone on the drapes, and illuminated the sobbing, face-hiding figure that had bonelessly collapsed onto the ground near the dressing table.
The figure's thin shoulders unceasingly shook. Faint whimpers came and went, the miserable crying like a never-awakening nightmare.
The half-open window blew in midnight's chilling breeze, which leisurely swirled inside the chamber. Inside the wind's sounds, there faintly traveled an extremely low whispering.
Quiet, yet sharp, like the grinding of steel wool, or like icicles on the summits of thousand-year-old glaciers, the whispers held icy harshness as well as never-ending killing intent and hatred.
"If I ever find out who you are ... need to kill ... will not rest until you die ..." ---------------
That sharp scream pierced through the quiet of the Profound Origin sect village like a drill. Everyone heard it, and everyone had different reactions to it.
Qi Xunyi's eyes were deep and mysterious. He turned his plans and calculations over and over again, all kinds of conjectures running through his mind. The only thing missing, was any sort of pity towards his cousin's tragic situation.
Zong Yue clasped his hands while standing in front of the window, facing the boundless darkness. The eyes he used to stare into the void were not empty, but instead seemed rooted in reality. It was as if he could see beyond the murky fog of midnight, and see some kind of bone-chilling destiny of human life.
After hearing that piercing scream, he slowly raised his hand, then made a fog sweeping gesture.
Strangely, in his eyes, there also was no pity to be found.
Far away, on a remote mountain peak, a wide sleeve robed man leisurely leaned against a boulder. Playing with a mysterious and eccentric mirror, he overlooked the Profound Origin sect underneath.
On his knee crouched Master Yuanbao, whose white fur gently swayed in the wind while it also looked in the same direction as his master, into the darkness in front.
Its gaze was heavy, and its mood was very solemn. It had already accompanied its master in staring for almost an hour.
But it actually couldn't see much of anything.
Yuan Zhaoxu tilted his head and looked with annoyance at his pet who liked to pretend. Suddenly, he stood up.
Master Yuanbao immediately tumbled down onto the ground, with its four limbs and pink stomach facing the sky.
Its master slightly chuckled. "How foolish."
Master Yuanbao used its two claws to grasp the earth, ready to cry.
Unexpectedly, his master lightly said, "I was talking about Qi Xunyi."
Master Yuanbao's shattered glass heart instantly repaired itself.
From behind came the sound of fast footsteps, sweeping over like a gust of wind. Amidst the rustling of leaves, a girl's crisp voice was heard.
"Aha, that piercing noise just now was at a high decibel level, very suitable for soprano singing."
A dai colored shadow flashed. Meng Fuyao climbed up and pushed aside Yuan Zhaoxu, sitting down with a plop. Grimacing while rubbing her knee, she resentfully said, "That guy was pretty strong, I had to use my best efforts to only barely manage to escape. When my leg hit the tree I didn't even feel anything, yi ya, only now when I'm resting do I feel the pain."
After a pause she then said, "This person's origins, and Pei family's status, seem to be pretty powerful huh."
Yuan Zhaoxu leaned on the boulder while feeding Yuanbao some fruits. Yuanbao had already forgotten the bitterness of being bullied a while ago, and opened its mouth contentedly to receive the incoming food. Hearing Meng Fuyao's question, Yuan Zhaoxu smiled and replied with another question. "You've been complaining for half a day, is it because you want me to personally massage your knees?" While replying, the hand that was lowering the food slowed. Yuanbao immediately glared at Meng Fuyao.
Fuyao stared back with disdain, then glanced at Yuan Zhaoxu with a mocking laugh. "How about you go massage that little guy's belly, looks like it can't digest all of the food. It would be unfortunate if it died of overeating."
Yuanbao immediately bared its teeth at Fuyao. This time Meng Fuyao didn't even bother with it. Yuan Zhaoxu smiled, then while taking out a piece of cloth to wipe his hands he said, "Royalty."
Fuyao's eyes focused, and her tone became more serious. "Royalty?"
Lights swirled brilliantly in Yuan Zhaoxu's eyes. Laughingly he replied, "Regretful?"
Meng Fuyao's long eyebrows jumped up, and the side of her mouth slightly rose. "The only thing I regret is not piercing straight through her that day."
Yuan Zhaoxu looked at the Fuyao who was in high spirits. His eyes flashed, and after a time he chuckled. "Do you know who it is you just tried to assassinate?"
"Tai Yuan's Third Prince, Qi Xunyi," Zhaoxu's smile became even more mysterious, "also known as one of the Five Region Continent's 'Seven Princes', Prince Yi."
"Prince Yi? 'An apricot flower askew slick with misty rain, three thousand scarlet colors dancing in starry twilight', the one known as the number one in literary talent, number one in noble aura, number one in absurd ridiculousness under the heavens - Prince Yi?"
Meng Fuyao was stunned, recalling that ambush that was like a venomous snake, and that sword light that was like a storm cyclone.
Yuan Zhaoxu glanced at her. "Looks like it was fortunate that I didn't reveal his true status to you before, otherwise I'm afraid you would have been unable to run when you were at the Wind Listening Small Pavilion."
"Nonsense." Fuyao gave him an angry look. "Am I the type of person to get weak in the legs when seeing attractiveness?"
Yuan Zhaoxu pretended to be earnest, leaning over and patting Yuanbao on his head. "Master Yuanbao, what do you say?"
Yuanbao's tone sounded like complete agreement.
Meng Fuyao was infuriated, and hatefully said, "If I really was a loose woman, I'd throw myself on you first..." After getting halfway through she realized her slip of the tongue, and with an "uh" sound she hurriedly shut her mouth.
Unfortunately, the sensitive eared Yuan Zhaoxu had already heard. With a lift of his eyebrows, he chuckled while looking over. "En?"
Fuyao sprang up in a flash, loudly yelling, "I'm leaving!"
With a couple leaps she had sprinted down the boulder, just like a fleeing rabbit. Faintly she could hear the man behind her softly laugh, the sound close to the side of her ear.
"This was my original hope, I just didn't dare ask."  ------------------
Keeping in line with Yuan Zhaoxu and Meng Fuyao's expectations, the situation changed the next day.
Normally, with Qi Xunyi being targeted by an assassination attempt at the Profound Origin sect, he should have immediately alerted Lin Xuanyuan and work with him to come up with countermeasures. However, Qi Xunyi did not do this, but instead was silent for the whole day. During the day he ordered many people to investigate affairs, interrogating several disciples of the sect. Once evening arrived, he went to visit Lin Xuanyuan.
What the two discussed, no one knew. Only a faint sound of sect master Lin erupting in anger was heard, while Qi Xunyi only chuckled and sent out a command: The sect master of the Profound Origin sect is suspected of collusion with the Yun family, and seriously wounding Princess Pei Yuan. He will be brought back to Yanjing for interrogation, while Profound Origin sword sect will be completely guarded by heavy troops. Without clearing of all suspicion, none of the disciples would be allowed to exit even one step.
The Profound Origin sword sect was a high ranking martial sect in the Tai Yuan Empire, and many of its disciples were from wealthy and powerful clans. According to typical procedure, without going through an investigation and permission by the local authorities, Qi Xunyi completely detaining a whole sect by himself was a little too reckless. Unfortunately, this prince has always done things this way - everyone knew that he was uninhibited by rules, the number one under the heavens in being exaggeratedly ungovernable. It would only be strange if he didn't do things outrageously.
Qi Xunyi locked down and secured the Profound Origin sect, then went to visit the Infinite Empire's Grand Tutor who was currently a guest at the sect. Representing the Tai Yuan Imperial Court, he delivered some apologetic niceties, then ordered that the Grand Tutor be immediately released and allowed to go on his way.
Today, Meng Fuyao leisurely followed among the Grand Tutor's contingent, walking out of the grounds of the Profound Origin sword sect.
"I've always thought it strange." Fuyao had thoughtfully pondered for a long time, before finally whispering beside Yuan Zhaoxu's ear. "Even though I wanted to create a frame-up, I only expected to muddle to waters of the case, and use the subsequent opportunity to escape. Because, Qi Xunyi should have realized that this situation has something odd about it, and wouldn't be so easily tricked. Yet from what I see now, he seems to be determined to act against Lin Xuanyuan. Also, please don't tell me that this is because of his famous willfulness. That night when I exchanged blows with him, I could tell that his supposed absurdity is most likely a ruse."
"Woman shouldn't be too dumb, but being too smart is also not good." Yuan Zhaoxu smiled as he looked at her. "Isn't it fine that you've escaped, why care so much about it?"
"Just tell me!" Meng Fuyao, anxious to know, grabbed the reins he was holding and made a movement as if she was going to release the horse.
"Every states' martial powers will participate in political struggles, this you know. Profound Origin sword sect was always neutral in the past, but recently it had shown signs of moving closer to Tai Yuan's Crown Prince. While Qi Xunyi, the Third Prince, has always been in disagreement both publically and privately with the Crown Prince." With a pull of his fingers, Yuan Zhaoxu snatched back control over the horse reins.
Meng Fuyao was enlightened all of a sudden. "So it's like that. Qi Xunyi only needs an excuse, even if the excuse is riddled with holes, he can still borrow it to take action. No wonder you advised me when I was going to attack him, to be sure to only use Profound Origin sect's martial techniques. And when Lin Xuanyuan was facing Qi Xunyi's interrogation, even if he suspected the assassin to be me, he would still have no way of expressing the whereabouts of this "already dead disciple", let alone explaining how I died. Naturally, he would be unable to dispute anything."
The corner of her eyes drifted sideways, her vision falling on the hand Yuan Zhaoxu had used to take back the reins of the horse. There, in the center of his palm, a lotus blossom was pale white in color and extremely life-like. She couldn't refrain from raising her eyebrows and smilingly ask, "What is that in your palm? A birthmark?"
Yuan Zhaoxu's fingers paused. With a shake, the robe sleeves fell down once more, covering his palm. Faintly laughing he said, "Something like that."
His expression was normal, but Fuyao thought that he seemed a little low-spirited. Knowing that she probably touched some taboo of his, she chuckled, then didn't say anymore.
Master Yuanbao stuck its head out from Zhaoxu's chest, greedily peeking at that lotus blossom. It nibbled its teeth, most likely wanting to want bite off that mark.
At this time, the procession had arrived at a stream flowing at the base of the Profound Origin mountains, and the group stopped to rest and quench their thirst. Qi Xunyi's escorting troop was behind them by a step, and not long after they also catched up. Qi Xunyi's carriage was glamorous and brightly decorated, while a colorful trail of maids and servants followed. At the four corners of the carriage golden bells sounded with "ding ling" noises; the carriage's scattered fragrance could be smelled from far away along the road.
From the horse carriage traveled low, calm music, beautiful and serene, intermixed with a woman's delicate laughs. The tune seemed a bit familiar. Meng Fuyao was bitterly racking her brains, when she saw a couple of the Grand Tutor's subordinates look at each other, their expressions abnormal and awkward.
Only after thinking for a while did she finally recall, that tune seemed to be one of the ten most common red-light songs, "Playing with Purple Bamboo". Furthermore, only the cheapest courtesans among lowly prostitutes would sing it to entertain their ignoble guests; any brothel girl who had some amount of business would disdain to sing it.
From the royal horse carriage, that typically should have dignified, magnificent imperial music playing, instead came a type of decadent song most people would be ashamed of listening to in public. It truly made for an incompatible pairing.
The subordinates of the Grand Tutor all showed "such absurdity" expressions, while Meng Fuyao coldly looked on from the side. Recalling the panther-like alertness and dragon-like sword arts of that malevolent man last night, an iciness flashed through her eyes.
It would be best to avoid people like Qi Xunyi. Fuyao escaped far away, going upstream to find a place to find water. Just when she was about to drink, unexpectedly a person marched over from behind, piercingly shouting, "Make way make way!"
Meng Fuyao turned back only to see several servants, each carrying jade basins, wash towels, scented soap, and on a golden tray one of them was holding, was even a shiny piece of aluminite stone. It looked like they were preparing to procure water for Qi Xunyi to wash his face. 
Those subordinates of the Grand Tutor all revealed expressions of "such extravagance" again.
Meng Fuyao glanced over at the transparent and clean spring water. This world was still the unpolluted era of ancient history, and spring water could be directly used from the source. This Qi Xunyi, he needed to use alum precipitate even when washing his face, isn't he going a little too overboard?
Seeing her just stand there unmoving, in between the servant's brows passed a flicker of anger, and he stretched his hand to push Meng Fuyao. "What are you doing stupidly standing there? You're going to pollute the upstream water! Run downstream to drink!"
Fuyao was engrossed in deep thought until, with that unexpected push, the slick moss on the rocks underneath slipped her, and she immediately slid sideways down towards the water.
1. A famous Confucian philosopher Mencius (Meng Zi) once said this to a king. Mencius was getting ready to return to his home town when the king said he hoped to see him again. Mencius replied with this phrase, meaning that that was his hope as well.
2. Aluminium Sulfate can purify water: