Book 1: Winds Begin to Blow in Tai Yuan
Chapter 37 – A Thread of Killing Intent
You hour, second half-hour. (5:30 pm or 17:30)
Inside the water pavilion of the Heavenly Peace Hall. The aged Emperor’s dragon body was not well, and after having made a simple appearance as usual, he left the princes to party amongst themselves.
Qi Xunyi clapped his hands, and the performing troupe came into the hall. The leading girl’s waist was like a snake’s, slightly revealing a snowy white, firm stomach while wearing graceful, golden long pants. Crimson jewels were embedded onto her chest wrap, and her twin peaks were like snow as they burst out with fullness. The dash of snow white combined together with the delicate waist, creating a gorgeous scene that contained a wild, primitive allure.
The princes were accustomed to seeing appropriately behaved gentlewoman, so towards this type of exotic taste they all thought it refreshing. One by one they put down their wine cups, while the Crown Prince also looked over with a smile.
The people of the performing troupe all had great skill in dexterity. Halfway through the show, it was an acrobatic performance involving flinging people into the air. Dozens of people stacked up one after the other, each one more slanted towards the outside than the previous, building up a high tower using humans. The princes raised their heads to look, completely marveling at the performers’ flexibility. They didn’t notice that the human tower kept stacking towards the center of the hall, step by step approaching the upper seats. There was only a person’s distance left before it could reach the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince didn’t notice either, because Qi Xunyi had suddenly pulled out an object that he asked him to inspect. With just one look the Crown Prince’s eyes brightened. It was a Xuanji Diagram, thirty-six by thirty-six characters. Reading forwards, backwards, from the beginning, word by word reversed, going backwards word by word reversed, horizontally, diagonally, all could form a complete phrase. The content was actually not poems, but an outline on military strategy.
“Is this the fabled betrothal gift that the Infinite Empire’s Crown Prince gave to his fiancée when he was only thirteen years old? It’s rumored that it contains thirty-two marvelous tactical and military strategies, and was always hidden inside the deep palace, where did you obtain it?”
“It is naturally a rubbing impression.” Qi Xunyi lightly smiled. “This little brother knows that the Crown Prince loves military strategy, and so bitterly found this to give a filial gift to you.”
“Ai, truly a treasure!” The Crown Prince received it, obsessively studying it like he could not bear to part with it.
Qi Xunyi raised his head, and his eyes flashed.
That charming girl immediately somersaulted, lithely rising up like a young swallow flying through the forest or skimming past the waves. The tips of her feet consecutively tapped out, as golden light glimmered and jade and gem pendants danced out a brilliant blur. In the blink of an eye, she had spun onto the peak of the human tower.
On that soaring human tower, one could reach out their hands to touch the domed ceiling. When the dancing girl reached the summit, that tower suddenly toppled!
The whole hall filled with shocked yells, yet the human tower suddenly stopped.
The performing troupe truly had superb skills, and didn’t scatteredly fall down because of that extreme difficulty, sharp dropping movement, instead stopping at a dangerous tilt and forming an angle with the ground. The body of that dancing girl on the very tip of the human tower was leaned backwards with her face up, precisely falling in front of the Crown Prince. Her dark hair tumbled down like a waterfall, blocking the line of vision of the guards positioned in the back of the hall. Her lovely features like spring and her red lips like fire were all close to the Crown Prince’s eyes; that enchanting and glistening smile, seemed like it was waiting for the Crown Prince to extend his hand and pluck at any time.
And, her mesmerizingly dancing, slender jade fingers, could also lightly stretch out and be able to contact the Crown Prince’s throat! ————-
You hour, the second half-hour was half-passed! (5:45 pm or 17:45)
The outside of the Letter Hall was currently chaotic like a pot of congee. Three thousand guards squeezed together while desperately pouring water towards the Letter Hall, as well as desperately trying to fight the fire.
Fang Minghe’s large army met with obstacles outside the city. Originally the gates should have already been opened, but from who-knows-where popped out a group of people. The leading man with clothing white like snow and lips like cherry declared that Fang Minghe had forged the imperial decree and had preposterous orders, so the palace gates could not be opened. The opposite side didn’t make any contact with the large army, yet consecutively killed several of Fang Minghe’s plants that were ordered to open the gates, making the fifty thousand strong army have to temporarily be stuck outside the city gates.
Second hour half-passed.
Qi Xunyi leaned over, attentively discussing how to read the Xuanji Diagram with the Crown Prince. His body covered over the Crown Prince, while his gaze swept towards the dancing girl!
The two hands of the dancing girl, suddenly raised up!
The sound of a high shout broke through that moment of intentional murder of an unwitting victim!
“The Letter Hall is on fire!”
The Crown Prince suddenly lifted his head, while the dancing girl’s two hands shrunk back.
Only with this raising of heads did the crowd of people realize, looking from the high elevated Heavenly Peace Hall that overlooked the entire imperial city, the inside of the palace city suddenly bloomed out a myriad of scarlet fire dots, soaring and madly dancing. Gradually they connected into a stretch of fire red and even continued to expand. While at the furthest Letter Hall, even more of the entire imperial city was surrounded by that leaping fire light, as if a huge body of rosy clouds that illuminated the whole sky of the northwestern corner!
The fire’s glow shone on the surroundings, and the many people outside the Letter Hall could be vaguely seen, like black ants crowding forward in clumps. As the many princes watched, their face colors had already changed.
The Letter Hall was cold and secluded. With a fire rising in the middle of the night, how could the palace guards be able to rush there to put out the fire so fast? Unless – they were already there!
Gathering troops in the middle of the night, what did this imply? The various princes were born into royalty, from birth learning the designs of an Emperor, and playing using the means of political maneuvering. They immediately thought of a horrifying possibility.
The crowd’s eyes all uniformly fell on the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince’s eyes were deep and chilly, his face calm. Only some people attentively noticed, on the fingers that were clenched on the Xuanji Diagram, his knuckles had gone white.
By his side, Qi Xunyi’s face was ghastly pale, his gaze flashing. However without waiting for him to speak, the Crown Prince suddenly put down the Xuanji Diagram, and swung his robe sleeve.
The dancing girl swaying in mid-air was instantly fiercely flung out, falling onto the ground. She slid many chi out, spitting out a mouthful of fresh blood.
“The palace is on fire, and this woman is still annoyingly loitering here!” The Crown Prince dusted his sleeves and rose up, striding out with large steps. “Subordinates come, accompany this Highness to take a look!”
“Crown Prince!” Qi Xunyi stood up. “His Majesty’s birthday, according to our Tai Yuan’s regulations, requires the sons to serve by his side that day. You are the Crown Prince, it is improper for you to break these rules, how about I go.”
“Third Brother.” Crown Prince looked at him, mildly smiling. “Emergencies require expediency, the Royal Father won’t blame me. Although you have reminded me, since I will leave, here your age is the oldest. The various brothers and nephews, I will leave for you to take care of on behalf of me.”
After speaking he didn’t wait for the ashen-faced Qi Xunyi to reply, hurriedly descending the stairs and rushing out in a gust of wind, surrounded by the East Palace guards.
Qi Xunyi dumbly stood in the middle of the water pavilion, clenching his teeth speechlessly. After a long while he winked towards the outside of the pavilion, and immediately people turned to alert Yan Lie and Fang Minghe.
Qi Xunyi stood and pondered back and forth, incessantly confused and upset. No matter how much he thought, he still couldn’t understand how under this kind of prepared plan of his, the inner palace could actually start burning and alert the Crown Prince, awakening him to danger and allowing him to escape.
As he was fretting, he suddenly saw a subordinate come forward, and then lean by his ear while saying a few words.
His eyes brightening, Qi Xunyi turned around and unconvincingly laughed, “I will go and change, the various brothers help yourselves.” Then hastily he left towards the back.
The direction he walked in was still in the area of the Heavenly Peace Hall, but was the farthest back side building of the Heavenly Peace Hall. Surrounding it were many soldiers guarding, not allowing people to pass through.
With fast steps Qi Xunyi entered the building while the large door behind him immediately closed. The courtyard was extremely quiet, without any people entering or exiting this secretive domain that belonged to him.
Stopping in front of a silent room, he intentionally let out a cough.
Inside the room, a man that was clasping his hands and appreciating the calligraphy on the walls, smiled and turned around. On his face was a worn a mask, but it couldn’t conceal the flowing brilliance of his eyes that was like a jade pool reflecting the bright moon. Ripples glimmered, yet one could still feel that kind of quiet stillness in his gaze ————
Around the same hour, sometime in You hour, second half-hour. (5:30 pm – 6:00 pm, 17:30 – 18:00)
Qi Xunyi had just entered the side building, when in a small house on the left, a screen suddenly shifted slowly halfway. Then, a pair of lively eyes scouted out from the ground, energetic as if the whole ground was covered in roiling mercury.
The black mercury turned a couple times, then was suddenly pushed out from the floor by someone. A certain perverted person leapt out, behind her a pale-faced cold youth whose eyes were like night.
“Where is this place?” Meng Fuyao’s black mercury eyes rolled around spiritedly, curiously examining the surroundings.
Yun Hen frowned as he looked around, he did not recognize this place either. The Tai Yuan Imperial City had too many secret passages that were all one-way, only being able to enter and not exit. The two had to choose an exit path when inside the Letter Hall’s secret passageway, and felt that none of them were suitable except for this one. Without any markings, Meng Fuyao ended up selecting this path. Right now judging from the layout here, it seemed like they had arrived at the center of the imperial city.
Silently standing there, all of a sudden Meng Fuyao made a hand gesture.
“There are people nearby speaking.”
A long window was half shut. Yun Hen looked out from between the gap towards the main building. There, lamp fire was suddenly lit, outlining two conversing human figures. One of them had wide robes and long sleeves, when tilting his head his posture graceful.
The first one with a golden crown and long robes should be Qi Xunyi, the other one … Yun Hen’s mouth corner revealed cold smile with a thread of killing intent. He thought that person must be the one hidden behind Qi Xunyi, helping him carry out this time’s palace coup and fratricide plot?
He waved his hand, signaling Meng Fuyao to come look.Footnotes Dragon Body: Term used to refer to the health of an Emperor, who was thought to be the son of the heavens, and thus a dragon. A Xuanji Diagram (the “Xuanji” are the same characters as Polaris, but the state of Polaris isn’t related to this diagram) is a palindromic square composed of many Chinese characters that, no matter if read down, up, side to side, or diagonally, will form a poem. It is kind of like a magic square or Sudoku but much more complicated because it has to create many understandable poems, not just using numbers.
This is based off the real life Xuanji Diagram that has a pretty romantic back story. In the Gansu province of the Former Qin Dynasty (351-394 AD), an educated, beautiful, and humble girl called Su Hui was married when she was 16 to an inspector called Dou Tao. Dou Tao also had a favorite concubine called Zhao Yangtai who was skilled in singing and dancing, and Dou Tao created a special house just for her. Su Hui was jealous and had Zhao Yangtai beaten up, after which Dou Tao was very angry. When Su Hui was 20 she was invited to accompany her husband to his new post in another province, but she was still bitter and she refused, so Dou Tao took Zhao Yangtai with him and stopped communications with Su Hui. Su Hui was very regretful for what she had done, and to try to make up she created the Xuanji Diagram, made up of 841 characters (29 X 29) and 7958 possible poems on a piece of silk. After it was sent to Dou Tao, he was fascinated and touched by her dedication so he sent Zhao Yangtai away and gave many gifts to Su Hui to show that their love was still unbroken. This is what Su Hui once said of the poem: “As it lingers aimlessly, twisting and turning, it takes on a pattern of its own. No one but my beloved can be sure of comprehending it.”