"Let go of me!" the little princess shrieked. She pushed the maidservants aside, knelt on the ground and crawled forward. Tears started to stream down her face. She reached out her hand to wipe the tears off of her face, staring brazenly at her father, whom she had feared since young. Her voice was shaky, but she tried hard to maintain an upright posture, uttering slowly, "Father, please retract your order."
"Chun'er!" Zhao Che frowned and berated, "What are you doing? Stop it!"
There was a strange expression on everyone's faces. In the giant Fang Gui Pavilion, only the sounds of the wind could be heard.
"Seventh Brother," the little princess, her eyes bloodshot, turned her head to look at Zhao Che, "please help Chun'er. Chun'er does not wish to marry anymore. Please plead with Father on my behalf."
"Seventh Prince, take your younger sister away."
Zhao Che frowned, rooted to the spot. Ultimately, he agreed in the end, nodding his head. He grabbed Zhao Chun'er, replying deeply, "Yes, Your Majesty."
"Father!" Zhao Chun'er hollered. She looked up, tears flowing freely from her face. "Please grant my request! I'd rather marry someone from the western wastelands, northern borders, or the frontier. I beg you, please retract your order!"
"Chun'er, stop your nonsense, follow Seventh Brother!"
"Father!" Zhao Chun'er pushed Zhao Che aside, kneeling on the ground stubbornly and kowtowing with force. The sounds of her head hitting the ground reverberated around the pavilion. "Father, I beg you, please retract your order. Please, please retract your order..."
The Xia Emperor did not look at Zhao Chun'er, and instead looked sternly at Zhao Che. He declared, "Seventh Prince!"
Zhao Che frowned. He lowered his head and picked Zhao Chun'er up from the ground, and walked towards the exit of the pavilion. Zhao Chun'er, who had suppressed her tears previously, wailed without any restrain. She pleaded, "Father! Please retract your order. Father, Chun'er does not wish to marry anymore. Father, I beg you, please…"
Fresh blood oozed out of Zhao Chun'er's forehead, dripping onto the white carpet laid out on the floor of the pavilion. It was a shocking sight. The entire pavilion fell into dead silence. Everyone stared at the Xia Emperor from the corner of their eyes, not daring to look up.
"Chun'er is a filial child. Your Majesty need not be angry. After all, she's a girl, and she can't bear to leave home." As Noble Consort Xuan uttered those words, the entire pavilion responded in agreement. The atmosphere livened up again. Scholar Cui, from the Book Bureau, added, "The Princess is caring and filial. It is a rare sight. Crying during marriage is a reflection of the Princess's virtues, just like ancient sayings."
"Your Majesty is benevolent, he showers love upon his children. As his children are leaving home, they would not be able to listen to the Emperor's wise words. Naturally, they would feel sad."
"That's right, it must be like this."
While the pavilion bustled with life, no one's attention was on the second side pavilion. Chu Qiao cautiously stood up, preparing to leave. As she stood up, a hand tugged at her sleeve. Zhuge Yue was looking down, sipping at his wine. As she stared at him, he looked up, residual stains of the red wine still on his lips, accentuating his evil appearance. The man puckered his lips gently, saying in a low, hoarse tone, "Where are you going?"
Chu Qiao, half-squatting, placed her face closed to Zhuge Yue's eyes, smiling sarcastically. "Am I close to Fourth Master? Are you overstepping your boundaries?"
Zhuge Yue inched his body closer, his nose almost touching Chu Qiao's face. "The banquet has not ended yet. Leaving your seat midway is very rude."
"So what?" Chu Qiao replied sarcastically, in a cold tone. "This is the royal palace of the Xia Empire, not Qing Shan Court. Fourth Master, must you meddle in everything?" As she finished her sentence, the young lady grabbed Zhuge Yue's wrist. With a clean, swift movement, she loosened his grip on her sleeve and pressed his palm against the ground.
Zhuge Yue's jet-black eyes sparkled in the background. He smiled plainly and said, "Coincidentally, I like to meddle in other people's affairs." Zhuge Yue's hand, like a loach, slipped out of Chu Qiao's grip with some swift movements. He grabbed her sleeve again.
"Is it? In just a few years, Master has changed. I always thought that you were a cold-blooded, ruthless person, unmoved by anything." Chu Qiao used two fingers to feel across his arm, pressing on his acupuncture points and suppressing the movement of his arm.
"You flatter me. In terms of being cold-blooded and ruthless, I concede defeat to you."
The two of them exchanged blows under their seats, hidden by the long tablecloth. No one would have been able to notice them. As the main pavilion bustled with life, no one would focus their attention on the side pavilion.
"Haha, what are the two of you talking about? Both of you seem so happy. Let me hear it too." Li Ce jumped behind the both of them, smiling brightly.
Chu Qiao stared at Li Ce coldly. She turned around and looked at Zhuge Yue, laughing. "I'm going to the restroom now. Fourth Master, are you intending to follow me there?"
Zhuge Yue was stunned. He did not expect that a girl, in front of a man, could think of such an excuse. The normally aloof master of the Zhuge family turned red with embarrassment, enhancing his charisma.
Chu Qiao stood up, satisfied. She reached out her hand and patted Zhuge Yue's face lightly, saying with a smirk, "Don't follow me. Take note of your identity. You are part of the seven noble families. It's inappropriate to follow a normal civilian."
Crisp smacking sounds echoed out at that moment. Zhuge Yue turned even redder, about to explode with rage. As he prepared to speak, Chu Qiao had already walked out of the side pavilion, blending into the darkness outside. He noticed many different strange stares in his direction. The rich ladies from the various families were looking at him in shock. Obviously, the events that had just unfolded did not escape their eyes. The fourth young master of the Zhuge family, of high status, had actually been played by a lowly civilian!
"What a rare sight!" The Tang Prince sat at the side, staring at him in envy.
Zhuge Yue suddenly realized that this man was incredibly irksome. He turned away in disgust, looking at the dancers in the main pavilion.
As Chu Qiao walked out of the pavilion, the wind made its assault on her. She frowned and looked back, noticing Li Ce holding up his robe and following behind her sneakily. Li Ce, seeing that he had been noticed, embarrassingly rubbed his palms together and said, "It's dark outside, let me accompany you."
Chu Qiao frowned, a solemn look on her face. Li Ce took two steps back, adopting a defensive posture. He replied, "I'll wait for you outside."
"Where do you want to wait?" The young lady approached him, smiling sweetly, her words carrying a distinct murderous intent.
Li Ce's hair stood up. He frantically waved and replied, "I'll stand here and wait for you."
Chu Qiao's expression visibly relaxed. She raised her leg, reached out her hand and caressed Li Ce's head, smiling sweetly. "Good boy."
Li Ce realised that she was way more fierce when smiling, as compared to when she was cold. Chu Qiao was Yan Xun's trusted subordinate. At his wedding, she needed to be there to calm the nerves of people, and to protect against those who harboured ill intentions.
She advanced swiftly along the small road, according to plan. She thought to herself, If not for Zhao Chun'er, she would have had to use much more effort to escape from the banquet.
The time was right. The young lady put a finger in her mouth, producing a shrill whistling sound akin to a night owl's cries in the dark. The hidden figures in Zhen Huang City, upon receiving the signal to take action, quickly assumed their positions amidst the darkness, which acted as their best cover. The young lady, a cold expression on her face, gave a sinister smile. "Zhen Huang, welcome to hell."
The young lady was as agile as a panther. She dashed through the dark alley. The wind blew past her ear, like a hidden beast in the darkness. She approached her target, camped inside a room for messengers, situated at the northwestern Xi An gates. The target was whistling, lying on his bed and perched his feet up, appearing leisurely.
Chu Qiao did not hesitate and entered the building. As the messenger became aware at what was going on, Chu Qiao ferociously stuck out her left hand to cover his mouth. She raised her right hand slightly, glanced at the man, and sent him on his journey with a swift and elegant stab to the throat. It was just a stabbing action! There were no other fancy methods.
Carrying out a killing is so often that simple.
At this instant, blood oozed out of the wound on the messenger's throat. Chu Qiao let go of him. The man made choking sounds as the wound on his neck split open. Slowly, more blood oozed out. His pupils slowly dilated and he collapsed softly. A pool of blood formed on the ground.
Chu Qiao used a blanket to cover the man. She turned around and walked out, advancing towards her next destination.
This was the mission that she worked on in conjunction with the Da Tong guild. They would carry out a two-pronged, internal and external assault on Zhen Huang. Within the first two hours of Yan Xun's signal, they would disable the relay system of the royal capital, cutting off Zhen Huang's means of communication.
Within the first two hours, the assassins from the Da Tong guild had reaped considerable results. Looking at the blue flares which were set off into the sky, and the succession of "night owl cries", Chu Qiao heaved a sigh of relief. As she squatted in the garden, she used her finger to trace the final stroke. A Chinese character, "Zheng", was visible on the ground.
On that night, many innocent people lost their lives. Their occupations were different; they had not seen each other or had any dealings before. The mission of the Da Tong guild was to uphold justice within the mainland, to promote a united society, to abolish slavery and to advocate equality. Hence, even though they had considerable influence, backed up by the various powerful clans around the world, they did not carry out any indiscriminate killings.
Chu Qiao stood up. As she turned around, she saw a long shadow standing in the darkness. The moonlight reflected onto his body, revealing a faint, silverish silhouette.
"Good methods." The man in the darkness replied with a low, cold voice.
Her initial shock disappeared. Chu Qiao looked coldly towards the front, remaining silent. She wanted to see if there was anyone else present.
"No need to look. There's no one else." The man took two steps forward. Under the moonlight, it seemed like his purplish robe had been adorned with a faint silver veil. He was handsome, yet appeared like a lady. The look in his eyes was icy-cold. The man walked forward slowly, stating in a low voice, "Where are you going? Who do you still want to kill?"