More than half of the officials in Sky Palace were criticizing Feng Feiyun.
This was a political contest, sharp and unforgiven. Only the winners would be able to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle as the masters of the dynasty.
On the other hand, Ji Lingxuan sat there quietly, pale from top to bottom. She looked like a withered rose with gray hair and dead eyes, unmoved by the rowdy scene.
Princess Luofu spoke: “Princess Yue is no longer around, this is the reality of the situation. She was betrothed to the Divine King so he should mourn for her, not just three years, even thirty is perfectly justifiable. However, don’t forget that in order to be the Divine King with a different last name, he must marry a princess. If anyone dares to use her death to seize his position, that’s a crime deserving of death.”
Everyone became quiet, including Feiyun.
She continued: “His Excellency must marry a princess, and as for who, that’s a personal matter of the royal clan, outsiders lack the authority for involvement. If he wants to marry me, as long as he wins the competition, then I shall marry him. At the same time, we will build a memorial for Princess Yue while undergoing all the necessary mourning ceremonies. It’s fine to watch the tomb for thirty years as well.”
No one could refute, not even Beiming Moshou.
The meeting ended before dusk. At the same time, the top seven have been determined. Li Xiaonan was eliminated by Long Qingyang, a surprise to everyone. However, the actual spectators knew that he had no intention of winning, not that Qingyang was stronger. The one he loved was Dongfang Jingyue so he couldn’t win this competition.
The seven were Feng Feiyun, Dongfang Jingshui, Beiming Potian, Prince Hongye, Gucuo, Mu Xingzi, and Long Qingyang.
Since it was dark, the next round would start tomorrow. Everyone started leaving the imperial city.
The red clouds over yonder slowly lost their color before night descended completely.
The temperature varied greatly between day and night at the capital during the winter. A snowstorm came right away, just needing one night to drown the entire area.
Feiyun came out of the palace and the maids and eunuchs quickly came to greet him.
“Click, click.” A group of white cranes was pulling a carriage and stopped right before him. There was no driver so it looked quite lonely. The person inside didn’t speak either.
Feiyun stopped and asked: “Is it you, Consort?”
A cough eventually sounded: “Cough… Divine King… please board.”
Ji Lingxuan’s voice carried sadness and contagious despair, a sign of impending death.
Feiyun breathed out cold, white smoke and said: “Where to?”
“To see an old friend.” She coughed after speaking.
After hearing her voice, he was no longer afraid of her like in the past. She seemed like an ordinary girl now so he got on the carriage, lifted the curtain, and entered.
The carriage continued moving out of the capital.
She sat in the corner, haggard with gray hair, but was still as beautiful as ever. She wore an unadorned dress, resembling a simple girl unstained by the world.
Feiyun was caught off guard by this sight and needed to calm down before finding a fur-furnished spot to sit down. He felt as if she was no longer a consort but rather, a young girl from the Ji Clan one hundred and eighty years ago - gentle, beautiful, knowledgeable, and wise.
The two of them seemed to be crossing through time for a meeting when she was only sixteen, newly debuted from her clan before marrying the Jin Emperor and becoming a wily consort.
Feiyun contemplated for a while before deciding to reveal that Jing Cangyue is still alive: “The thing…”
But she spoke at the same time and interrupted him: “Zuo Qianshou had mentioned you before.”
He was surprised: “Master Zuo? Where is he right now?”
Qianshou was a talented formation master who loved Ji Lingxuan and listened to everything she said. He even infiltrated the imperial court in order to steal the dragon stone - an item containing the providence of the dynasty.
Unfortunately, she ruthlessly severed his right arm and took him to the emperor. She gave the stone back and became the consort while he became imprisoned at the capital.
Later on, Feiyun’s ancestor came and saved him. The two ran to the southern border and lived at Fire Beacon for nearly two centuries, not daring to come back.
Feiyun remembered this story because a similar thing had happened to him - being used by a loved one.
“You’ll see him soon.” She sat there like a beauty in a painting.
Several years ago, Qianshou came to have closure with Ji Lingxuan. However, after coming to the capital, Feiyun tried to search for him to no avail.
The two didn’t speak at all. She tried several times but stopped after seeing his unfriendly expression.
Their destination was Southern Sky Temple, a place filled with shrines and mountains. Despite the late hours, one could still hear the Buddhist chants.
Lingxuan got off the carriage and walked beneath the moonlight on top of a fog-like energy, heading towards a creek. A wooden pavilion was built nearby with a single grave next to it.
Feiyun saw the name, Zuo Qianshou, carved on the lonely tablet.
Nearby were a thick layer of leaves from autumn. They rustled to the night breezes.
He used his phoenix gaze in order to see through the ground. An old man was buried down there, once handsome during his prime but had passed away for several years now. Because a cultivator’s body was tough, there was no sign of decay.
“How did he die?” Feiyun clenched his fists; his eyes turning cold.
Lingxuan took out a wooden broom from the pavilion and began to sweep in an elegant manner; her gray hair dancing to the wind. She calmly responded: “I have no one I love the most, and no one I hate the most, but I do have someone that I’ve let down the most, and I will make it up to him.”
The sweeping broom scattered the leaves.
“Only feeling sorry?” Feiyun felt that she was to blame for everything.
“I would come to clean his grave every year, then chant for him in that pavilion so that he can move on. When we met for the first time, I was in the midst of crossing him over for three days.”
“He’s dead, you think you can atone by sweeping his grave? That’s quite funny.” Feiyun began to think. Did Shuiyue come to sweep his grave each year after killing him too?
Lingxuan didn’t answer and continued sweeping until the whole place was cleaned up. She then took care of the weeds in a meticulous manner, not caring about dirtying her hands with dirt.
Her eyes were clear and pure just like a newborn baby. She looked at the grave and said: “Indeed, the punishment for murder should be death.”
The air became colder with snowflakes descending just like goose feathers. Some fell on her head, his shoulders, and the grave.
It was a big storm so it didn’t take long before the entire place turned silver and chilling with winds.
She rubbed her hands together, face turning red from the cold: “Feng Feiyun, could you embrace me? I feel cold and weary, and the pain…”
Feiyun had no intention of hugging her. He stood there as a layer of snow built on his frame.
After a while, he walked over and wiped the snow off her and suddenly found that she was encapsulated in ice from the grave down. Her lips trembled without any pink.
He hugged her and released a strand of energy to stop the freezing power. Unfortunately, he could only slow down the process and couldn’t save her: “You ate a Myriad Icesoul before coming here?”
This cold energy could kill all life, turning flesh and blood into ice. Not to mention Feiyun’s current cultivation, even the Jin Emperor couldn’t save her right now.
The seemingly pure woman rested her head on his chest; her voice quavered: “I didn’t want to live after Yue’er’s death.”
“She’s still alive.” His hands turned ablaze, one touched her heart while the other her cheek to remove some frost powders.
“It… no longer matters… it would be… nice if I … could go back in time…” She had a peaceful smile, the sincerest and most beautiful of them all. She continued: “Take… take… good care of her for me, will you…?”
Her eyebrows trembled and two tear drops came out; they quickly froze into shining pearls. She was a statue now with a growing layer of ice, separated from Feiyun.
One could still see her wondrous features through the ice, but this layer was the uncrossable gap between life and death.
The winds howled and the leaves scattered. This frigid air struck Feiyun, almost turning him into a snowman as well.
Ji Lingxuan had atoned for her sins with her life before this grave.
“Amitabha.” A young monk rode the snow and arrived with a gentle aura. His eyes were filled with sadness and pity: “She toiled for the Ji Clan her whole life, sacrificing her reputation and the purest heart, before ending her life.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Ji is a treasure-seeking clan, hated by both the Yin and Yang. She sacrificed herself to become a consort in order to gain his protection, allowing her clan to survive till now. As for Qianshou, it had nothing to do with her since her clan carried it out, but she always blamed herself for this.” Buddha Maitreya said with disappointment.
Feiyun closed his eyes - no wonder why she wanted an embrace at the end and talked about being weary. She had quite a tough life.
The Buddha went on: “With the incoming abdication, no one will protect the Ji so she needed Princess Yue to become the next empress for this purpose. Everything she did was selfless and she should be forgiven for her crime. It’s a shame no one knew.”
“Was it worth it?” Feiyun hugged the sculpture, no longer angry.
“Sacrificing a woman for the survival of a clan? Worth it…” The Buddha hesitated before speaking; he clearly didn’t believe in his own words.
After eating the soul of ice essence, she became younger and pure just like the past before she was chosen as a sacrificial lamb by her clan.
Perhaps she wanted a brief moment when she could consider to be in charge of her own life before dying. That’s why she sat in the same carriage with Feiyun for a little while. Unfortunately, he only had hatred for her at that point.
If he knew the reasons, he would have been much nicer to her in the carriage. It’s a shame that there was no re-do in life.