Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 1 – Pillage Wealth and Plunder Beauty
Infinite Empire’s Zhenning 15th year, winter.
Southern border of Infinite Empire, Crimson Rock Mountains.
The mountain formations ran over from extremely far away, continuously stretching and unceasingly rolling up and down on the vast land, until it came to an end on red stone flat plains. There it abruptly stopped, as if it were the tip of a blade.
At the sudden termination was a stretch of rugged sheer cliffs, that cut the winds into fragmented and broken pieces. Looking down from the high cliffs, at an extremely far distance away on the horizon, lofty city walls would suddenly be in one’s field of view.
The geographic center of the Five Regions Continent, as well as the unofficial political center – Infinite Empire’s capital city, Zhongzhou.
Despite being separated by a large distance, one could still feel the towering nature of the city. Its walls were like iron, while the vast area it took up and the denseness of its buildings made one exclaim in wonder. Even just gazing from far away, one still could not help but hold their breath and settle their movements, and almost worshipfully look at that great city famous in the Five Regions Continent.
Unfortunately, the sound of a wolf-like howl broke through the solemn, breathtaking silence.
“Why don’t you give me give me a man! Let me happily joyfully cheerfully excitedly hug him back home …”
On top of the cliff, a certain person stood welcoming the wind with a wide embrace. She opened her mouth to sing loudly while her whole face yearned, yearning to “happily joyfully hug a man back home.”
Behind her Yao Xun plugged his ears, his whole face filled with misery. The thought of betraying this wolf-howling person once again arose in his mind.
He didn’t fear the singing – the scariest thing was the out of tune howling. If you wanted to live a long life, it was better to stay far away from Meng Fuyao.
After Meng Fuyao finished howling, she dusted off her clothes and said to her number one little brother, “Ai, even though Zhongzhou is right in front of us, getting over there will still be a long distance. Our traveling expenses are all gone, I’ll go borrow some.”
“This kind of desolate mountain wilderness, where are you going to borrow money from?” Yao Xun wailed. “Surely you don’t mean you robbing me and me robbing you?”
“Pei!” Meng Fuyao spat out, the eyes that were looking downward suddenly brightening. “Isn’t a carriage coming over from over there? Let’s go, go loot them! I’ll plunder the beauties and you pillage the wealth!”
She bundled herself up while wearing the usual habitual ginger juice face. Using a black cloth to cover as a mask, she jumped down with several leaps.
“I cut through this mountain …”
On the twisting, long road, Meng Fuyao stood with her arms akimbo, loudly yelling with a high voice to attract attention. The two-person bandit gang’s other member, Yao Xun, sneakily flashed towards the back of the horse carriage.
“This Crimson Rock Mountain was indeed cut through. The first Infinite Emperor, Divine Martial Emperor, and the Fierce Martial Emperor of the state of Polaris once fought a great campaign here. Meeting this mountain’s obstruction, the Divine Martial Emperor ordered the mountain to be cut through to directly engage the other side, and eighty thousand soldiers tunneled through in one month. Thus, this mountain was not cut through by you.”
The voice that traveled out from the horse carriage was soft, mild, and contained a bit of apathy.
Meng Fuyao choked a little. Then she loudly shouted yet again, “I planted this tree …”
“The red stone plains are near the Red River. Year after year the Red River will flood, and the erosion and washing away of mud is severe. Eight years ago Crown Prince Wuji ordered for the commoners on the outskirts of the city to move to this mountain range, and plant trees on the red stone plains and the mountains. Thus, this tree was not planted by you either.”
A certain person who had been choked twice had finally run out of patience. She yelled, “I can’t cut through this mountain! I’m too lazy to plant this tree! If you want to pass through here! Offer up beauties and money!”
After a long period of silence, the carriage curtains were lifted up.
Under the sunlight Meng Fuyao suddenly narrowed her eyes.
The wind was cold, cutting over like an icy blade. When exhaling a breath of air, it seemed like one could immediately hear the sound of those tiny ice particles crystallizing, then falling in an instant. The Crimson Rock Mountains behind them was covered with a layer of light frost, causing the natural red tint to become even more vibrant by a few degrees. Those evergreen trees and plants in the rock seams became greener like emeralds.
This was a southern land’s chilly winter day. All of the surroundings were invaded by the frigid air – although it managed to preserve its vibrant colors, it was brightly rigid and stiff.
Only that man inside the dimly lit carriage, despite his indistinct appearance, made one feel tranquilly soft with those white robes like snow, and his slightly cherry blossom-tinted lips. Even the face-slicing wind suddenly seemed to not be as cold.
Meng Fuyao slanted her head, muttering, “I hate people who wear white robes the most, pretending to be pure!”
The white-clothed person inside the carriage seemed to be faintly smiling. He lifted his hand all of a sudden, his movements unclear. After which, the Yao Xun behind the carriage fell out while wailing.
“Lady, with just this, and you want to make this one offer up money and beauties? It seems hardly justifiable?”
Meng Fuyao stood unaffected, grinning. “I don’t know that person in the back. Only, I suddenly feel that your beauty is not up to par, and your wealth is not worth it for me to take. How about this, everyone just go their separate ways. Bye bye, see you later.”
She dusted off her butt and turned to walk away, ignoring Yao Xun who was crawling up from behind the carriage.
“When the weather is cold, things that warm the body are needed most. Even if Miss feels detest for this one’s wealth and beauty, you shouldn’t have any objections towards ‘A Taste of Spring’, right?” The voice drifted over with the wind. It was not spoken with a alluring tone, yet Meng Fuyao felt that it was very alluring all the same.
“A Taste of Spring”, ai, a top-grade vintage wine renowned throughout the Five Regions Continent. Every drop was like a drop of gold. Unimportant princes and nobles would be unable to get their hands on it, and even if they did they would hide it in the wine cellars of their homes. Most commoners had never heard of it before. The only reason why Meng Fuyao knew of it, was thanks to her master that alcoholic old Daoist. Whenever his addiction flared up, he would wander throughout the various states and flip open trunks, push down cabinets, pry open doors, and dig up graves just to find this wine. Meng Fuyao once curiously tried it, and ever since then she had a deep impression of this wine.
This kind of extreme velvetiness and richness would burst out in taste on the tip of the tongue, sending you to heaven with its lingering flavor.
Ai … it was a cold day. Getting a jug of good wine to drink, would be true enjoyment …
Meng Fuyao started to lightly smile, and when she turned around her face was already contentedly grinning. Raising her leg she clambered up the carriage. “Ai ya this Sir is too generous, it would be disrespectful of me to decline. Actually I see you have quite a lot of wealth, and your beauty … is not bad either.”
“Thank you Miss for the praise.” The man smiled faintly. Seeing Fuyao entering he unconsciously shifted his body to let her in, but for some reason his movements stopped half-way.
Meng Fuyao saw that the decorations inside of the carriage were simple yet refined. Three sides had seats, while in the middle was a small table. On top of the two empty seats, one side was covered with a very luxurious snow mink cloak, its fur tips glistening with silver. The other side, though, was a cotton jacket that was wrapped around something. Feeling that it was in the way, Meng Fuyao extended a hand to push at that thing.
However, that bundle of cotton suddenly flew up and landed in the man’s hand. The jacket scattered open, revealing that it was actually a basin of plants with deep purple-colored leaves.
Fuyao widened her eyes, after a while chuckling, “You let plants wear cotton jackets and ride a horse carriage? What kind of top-grade rare flower is this?”
“It is only common purple grass.” The man carefully put down that basin, saying, “Someone left it outside the village, and it almost froze to death. After seeing it I picked it up. Plants are intelligent, and they also fear the cold.”
Meng Fuyao shook her head, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Her gaze drifted up, and after seeing the man’s appearance clearly, her heart jumped. Wasn’t this that extremely cleanly white-clothed man, who was following behind Qi Xunyi that day at the foot of the Profound Origin mountains? His waist strap was still hidden in her robes right now.
Instinctively she rubbed her face. Remembering that back then at the Profound Origin mountains she had worn a mask, plus right now her face also was changed, she was no longer afraid of him recognizing her, and so she calmly smiled. “This Sir’s name?”
“My surname is Zong.” Zong Yue quietly watched her, the depths of his eyes containing some shining radiance. Bringing over the wine, he personally poured a cup for Fuyao. “Please.”
Meng Fuyao didn’t receive it, laughingly saying, “I still have a companion.”
Zong Yue slightly inclined his head. Outside the horse carriage a human figure flashed, after which Yao Xun was thrown onto a carriage in the back. Meng Fuyao’s pupils shrunk a little, and her smile towards Zong Yue became more amiable.
She raised her wine cup. The color of the alcohol in the cup was light yellow, and was precisely the genuine “A Taste of Spring”. This type of alcohol, because its color was unique, was extremely hard to add poison to. Once any impurities are introduced turbidity would appear. Now that the wine’s color was pure like the light yellow beaks of the ducks floating on the blue waters of spring, or like the great patches of blossoming winter jasmines in the middle of the mountain rocks, there was naturally no need to fear poisoning.
Fuyao’s mood was excellent and she consecutively downed several cups. In the end the drinking didn’t satisfy her craving, so she simply heaved over the whole jug. When she reached out her hand she almost touched the other’s finger. Zong Yue’s hand hurriedly shrunk back.
Meng Fuyao only pretended she didn’t notice, very quickly drinking herself drunk, then circled around in the carriage singing. When she was singing the coachman trembled from time to time, and the horse carriage bumped and jolted with extremely dangerous tipping over movements. Finishing her song, Meng Fuyao flipped open all of her robe pockets for Zong Yue to see, slurring, “… brother … no more … money … I’ll have to … rely … on … big brother … you … to survive … now …”
She wobbled around three times. Her left foot stepped on her right foot, and unable to steadily stand upright, she simply planted herself on top of Zong Yue’s seat with a peng sound.
At the same time rolling around, Meng Fuyao splayed out her hands and feet and rested them on the seat. She raised her head, contentedly sighing out a long breath. The horse carriage immediately billowed with the heavy scent of alcohol.
Zong Yue slightly furrowed his brows, overlooking the Meng Fuyao who could not wait to take up as much space as possible. Silently retreating a few steps, he carried that basin of flowers carefully to one side to prevent a certain person from clumsily crushing it, then went to open the window.
The window frame lifted up and refreshingly cool wind rushed inside. The wine smell instantly lessened by a few degrees. With only this one action, when he turned back again he saw that a certain person had already finished conquering three seats – the head on his mat, feet put on the other side, and her hands conveniently draped on top of his silver mink cloak.
Her soiled boots had kicked the silk cushion into a dirty heap. Zong Yue stared at that seat helplessly. He hesitated for a bit, and finally turned around to climb down the carriage and head towards the other carriage in the back.
The moment he had just left the carriage, in the next second Meng Fuyao immediately opened her eyes. Her eyes were clear like the virgin mountain springs on top of polar mountain ranges – there was not even a tiny amount of drunken haze.
With a flip of her body she rolled under the seat, and her fingers began to swiftly yet softly drum on the mattress. Suddenly she stopped, and the hand that was feeling under the mat, slowly pulled outwards.
All of a sudden the carriage curtains were lifted up by someone, and a line of light landed on a certain thief’s panicked back figure. At the same time it hit onto the bronze mirror inlayed on the carriage wall, reflecting a white-clothed tall man’s figure whose hands were carrying a tray.
Meng Fuyao’s heart jumped up, her hand freezing underneath the mat.Footnotes This is the first sentence of a famous saying that bandits would yell when robbing people in Ancient China: “I cut through this mountain, I planted this tree, if you want to go through here, leave your buying passage fee.”