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Book 2: The Infinite Heart

Chapter 3 – Thief of the Xinggong[1]

“I’m not just a regular kind of page, I require treatment that befits my outstanding qualities!” Meng Fuyao crouched in front of the “De Xin Courtyard” gates inside Prince De’s palace, located at Zhongzhou city’s eastern corner streets. She clutched a page-servant’s outfit while loitering around in protest.

Inside the building was completely still. Yao Xun looked at Meng Fuyao askance, pulling on her. “Ai, Lady Meng, you drank their priceless wine, being a page to repay your debt is still deservedly so. How should I say this, if you still demand more it seems to be taking it a little too far …”

“What do you understand!” Meng Fuyao cut him off. “So what if I am annoying him? This person is so calm and so clean, I precisely want to annoy him until he voluntarily surrenders.”

With deng deng deng sounds she climbed up the window. The window was closed very tightly, so Fuyao went to poke the window paper. I’ll poke, I’ll poke poke poke poke poke …… puchi puchi puchi, the window paper was quickly almost turned into a hornet’s nest.

Thinking of the cold night wind passing through the holey window paper to blow onto a certain person’s body with hu hu sounds, and how beautiful that scene would be, Meng Fuyao grinned with absolute joy. I’ll poke I’ll poke I’ll continue to poke … ouch!

Her fingertip suddenly pained, as if it were pierced by a needle. Fuyao retrieved her hand in a hurry, with a look discovering that on her finger had already squeezed out a round blood droplet. She couldn’t help but burn in fury, cursing, “That scum’s viciousness actually goes this far! There actually was an ambush!”

With a hua la sound the window frame was quietly pulled open. Zong Yue with an outfit like snow sat cross-legged in front of the window, while behind him was a large silk screen with white silk and embroidered maple leaves. On the edges of those vibrant deep red maple leaves were inlayed with slight yellow. Inside the brilliant gorgeousness was a type of frosty vicissitude of life, contrasting with the Zong Yue in front of the maple illustrations whose expression was mild yet elegant.

In his fingers was twisting a hollow needle. He observed the thinly flowing blood liquid inside the needle with a pondering expression, lightly saying, “Recently at Lifting Wind I met the sacred Saintess, Exalted Lady Fei Yan. She said to me, if there were a seventeen year old young girl who successfully cultivated a peerless mental technique, she would be a uniquely rare blood sacrifice body. She had searched for many years without results. If I had stumbled upon one, I definitely should let her know.” Waving the needle in his hand, he deeply thought, not looking at Meng Fuyao while muttering, “Exalted Lady Fei Yan wants a blood sacrifice body, while I have tried many times and all were unsuitable. I don’t know if this one will be or not?”

Meng Fuyao crouched on the window, laughing back at him with extreme anger while mumbling, “In your whole life, besides the kinds of stuff like threatening blackmailing coercing and framing, what else can you do at all?”

Zong Yue raised his eyes, throwing her a basket at a distance from the window, saying, “Right now I’ll let you see what I can do – I’ll bother you to go pluck the delicate tips from the seven-leaf grass in the courtyard garden and grind them into pieces inside a medicinal cauldron, I need to use them. Remember, it needs to be fine like powder, using the most tender and delicate grass tips.”

Meng Fuyao’s nose pointed towards the sky, while her hands were in her sleeves, not moving. Instead it was Yao Xun who went forward to pick it up, pulling Fuyao to leave.

“Since you picked it up you go pluck.” Meng Fuyao stomped outside, when the corner of her eye caught a glance of the grass besides the road. Suddenly she said, “Hey, this grass is really similar to the seven-leaves grass, almost identical … hey, you go pluck it, after grinding it give it to Zong Yue. Didn’t he want to let me see his abilities? Let me see if he can tell them apart or not.”

Not waiting for Yao Xun’s reply, she waved her hand saying, “I’m going for a stroll.” —————–

Zhongzhou was worthy of being the number one most prosperous, bustling city of the Five Regions Continent. It was unlike the legendary high-walled thickly fortified, primitively grim Nemesis capital city Pan; Zhongzhou was wealthy and flourishing, the local people idle and relaxed. Throughout the city were the traces of satisfaction and leisure that is unique to people governed during times of peace and prosperity. From the snow white bare feet of the young girls selling flowers; to the guests who spend half a day enjoying tea inside teahouses; to the eloquently discussing scholars inside the meeting halls; to the merchants from various states trading goods at the market; to the red sleeves fluttering in the wind from the tops of the qinglous[2]; to the smell of rouge, wine and meat from the gambling houses; from all this one could see this city’s diverse and all-embracing nature, its abundant and wide-encompassing scope.

According to a famous wandering poet’s romantic saying, Pan was like a tall and mighty man, its bearing dignified as it stood unmoving like a mountain. Zhongzhou was an elegant, ceremonially attired, and spaciously robed young man, with indulgence and culture coexisting, splendor and idealism born together.

Meng Fuyao aimlessly wandered around on the streets while arbitrarily buying some small knickknacks. She had money now – even though Zong Yue was not a good person or anything, but what he furnished this little page with was not considered too bad. If not for her discovering that she had found this free financer that could be responsible for her food and shelter, Meng Fuyao would have long started to think of ways to escape.

On the way she randomly wandered around, gradually passing through the main streets. The people slowly thinned out, and the roads gradually widened. In front, a magnificent and superbly crafted crowd of buildings came into view, but from its appearance it didn’t seem like an imperial palace either. The encircling walls were so short that Meng Fuyao could just lift her feet and leap over. The surroundings had some scattered locals, and Fuyao stopped an old person who was passing by to inquire. The old person kindly smiled at her, saying, “Miss must not be from around here. This is His Highness the Crown Prince’s xinggong.”

“The Crown Prince’s xinggong?” Meng Fuyao was stunned. “Isn’t it only Emperors who can have a xinggong?”

“Is Crown Prince Wuji a regular crown prince? He has held major authority in the Infinite state for a long time already, he just hasn’t ascended to the throne yet.” The old person showed some displeasure. “If, according to your logic, only Emperors can have honorifics, doesn’t Crown Prince Wuji have his own honorific just the same?”

“Ah? What honorific?” Fuyao absentmindedly asked. It seemed like Zhangsun Wuji was really loved and esteemed by the common people in his country.

“How could the types of people like us be worthy of mentioning the Crown Prince’s honorific?” The old person hastily walked forward. “Miss you can just stay here and look around, the Crown Prince very rarely comes over. This xinggong is a quiet place, it looks like today the Crown Prince definitely isn’t here.” The old person then pointed at that stout palace wall saying, “Do you see that low palace wall? In the flower garden outside the xinggong is planted a lot of medicinal plants, making it easy for the commoners who have no money to get medical treatment to pick and use. You just have to flip over the wall and grab some inside. Actually, wanting to see the Crown Prince is not hard, it’s just that everyone is responsible enough to not go and bother him.”

Meng Fuyao gave an “oh” sound, whispering, “Not defensible at all, better be careful of assassins mixing in.” She turned around, and sure enough she saw inside the medicine garden was planted many herbs. Meng Fuyao suddenly had an urge – if she stole a little to sell, wouldn’t that be money?

A quarter-hour later, the Meng Fuyao who had passed into the garden straightened her waist furtively, her robes bulging and swelling with a large pile. Fuyao knew some medicine, so she only chose the herbs that were relatively more expensive – she planned to bring them back and sell them to Zong Yue. She definitely had to fiercely make a profit off of this.

After stealing for half a day she felt a little hot, and her hands were also dirtied with a lot of mud. Meng Fuyao looked left and right, wanting to find some water to wash her hands. One of her eyes vaguely spotted a clear pond behind a false mountain in front.  On the opposite side of the clear pond seemed to be an iron red-colored tree, blooming with black-colored flowers. Meng Fuyao frowned, feeling that this tree had some similarity to the Qingtong Divine Tree that the old Daoist had once mentioned. This thing’s tree bark was excellent medicine for establishing foundations and nurturing spirit, also able to give great help to her own “Breaking Nine Heavens” technique. Immediately having covetous designs, she sneakily went nearer.

Before she had gotten close, from behind the fake mountains suddenly came out a pair of golden armored guards. Their spears interlocked in an X as they blocked the way, and one said, “Going further is the area of the Crown Prince xinggong‘s Outer Palace. Those who have come to pick herbs, please stop here.”

“Oh,” Meng Fuyao turned her eyes in thought, then humorously chuckled, “I won’t go over, but big brother soldier, could you let me climb up that fake mountain to take a look at the xinggong? That way when I go back I could tell those at home about it.”

The two guards looked at each other. Because frequently commoners would make such a request out of the admiration they had for the Crown Prince, the guards had long become used to it. Generously smiling one said, “Then you go up and take a look, don’t slip.”

“Ah, thank you.” Meng Fuyao bounced over to go climb the mountain. When passing by their sides, her fingers flipped once, and the two guards fell to the ground.

“Wow, Zhangsun Wuji sure has trained these soldiers well, their quality is great. They fall whenever you tell them to fall, so obedient.” Fuyao looked in four directions. As far as she could see there actually was no one around, it truly was empty with no one else to guard. She couldn’t help but perk up in joy, with two or three leaps climbing up the fake mountain. Without taking a look at the xinggong at all, she immediately jumped down.

Under the wide skies, above the fake mountain, the dai-colored figure directly leapt up. Like a young swallow shooting through the woods, it dived down towards the pond water behind the fake mountain.

“Freestyle swimming technique! Here I come!”

Footnotes 行宫 = xinggong, a temporary imperial palace for short stays by the Emperor 青楼 = qinglou, name for brothels in Ancient China

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