The lady who adored Zhong Yue paid him a visit, and upon being notified of his absence, she handed an embroidered pouch to Meng Fuyao with tears in her eyes. There was an amulet in it, and she explained that she had gotten it from Wuji border, Qingzhou Dade Temple, and the monk who blessed it was an efficacious one. She pled for Meng Fuyao to pass it to him, and while the latter was determined to decline, she couldn't stand the sight of the lady's tears and kept it eventually.
On an ordinary evening during dinner time, Meng Fuyao mentioned that she would teach Zhan Beiye soccer the next day, and take a stroll in the market with Ya Lanzhu after. Then, on the same, moonless night she had suggested it, she carried a cloth bundle, stuffed a fruit into Lord Yuan Bao's mouth to prevent him from reporting to Zhan Beiye, and executed a diversionary tactic on Zhangsun Wuji's secret guard before jumping out of the window and dashing to Huazhou. When she passed Yaocheng, Tie Cheng, along with a team of guards, joined in on the journey toward Wuji border.
Going at full speed, the group arrived in Qingzhou in a night's time, and when they passed a folded, jade-green mountain, Meng Fuyao recalled Zong Yue's admirer saying that Dade Temple was just on top. Out of curiosity, she brought Tie Cheng to climb it.
Halfway through, they heard a sudden swoop of a sword, together with the alarmed cry of a woman.
Meng Fuyao frowned. 'To get involved or not? Nothing good comes out of meddling in others' affairs…' After some thought, she extended both hands and murmured, "Guessing game, I'll go check it out if I win…"
Before she could attempt to cheat, Tie Cheng had already rushed up. He made a shout, and the guards raised their arms.
Meng Fuyao followed in resignation, spotting a group of people trapped in a corner, the carriage in the middle already half toppled. There were a few men dressed in guard uniforms, battling against men in torn clothes, the majority of them already injured. Before the half toppled carriage stood a few cowering servant girls.
It seemed that those guards had gone up to pray but had met with a group of bandits.
After observing the overall situation, Meng Fuyao's eyes fell upon the toppled carriage.
It was already ruined, it's door fallen out, and she could vaguely see a girl sitting inside. She held an elegant posture, face unmoving, and her moon-white dress draped over the floor, creating a ripple-like effect. From afar, she appeared like a statue of a goddess.
What kind of woman must she be to remain so calm, waiting in a toppled carriage before the unfolding of bloodshed?
Meng Fuyao was curious now. Striding forward, she shouted, "Stop, everyone!"
Naturally, no one listened to this skinny youth, except Tie Cheng, who then almost got attacked by an incoming chop. Luckily, he blocked it in time.
"How dare you attack my people?"
Meng Fuyao lifted her long robe a little and dashed forward. Without any fancy moves, she simply reached for another sword from Tie Cheng's waist area before slicing it forward.
Three arms flew into the air as blood splattered everywhere. Even a section of the grass patch was sliced off.
An arm smashed into the carriage body, rolling toward the girl who was meditating. Throwing her glance over, Meng Fuyao noticed the lady raising her head, taking the broken arm and placing it on the grass before her. She then shut her eyes and started mumbling, as if chanting.
This got Meng Fuyao even more curious. What a strong character she was! Men were fighting over her, and there she was making prayers for a broken arm? Was she a nun?
While keeping an eye on the lady, Meng Fuyao conveniently landed a chop on a sneak attacker, successfully knocking him unconscious. She then approached the lady, but not before kicking seven, eight other men away.
With a pool of bandits rolling about in pain, it was clear that they weren't her match. They let out a cry and scattered in all directions. Without even looking at them Meng Fuyao squatted and even knocked on the collapsed door. "Sorry to disturb, lady."
The lady in the carriage looked up.
Meng Fuyao was stunned.
She locked gaze with a set of peaceful yet deep and clear eyes. They weren't pure black but carried a slight brownish tinge, and it seemed as though they were set far onto a shoreline, or onto a flash of starlight that rose from behind the mountain some thousand miles away.
They were a very special pair of eyes, so much so that Meng Fuyao actually found them rather familiar. It was as though a certain image had superimposed itself onto what she was seeing, and it was a perfect match.
'This pair of eyes… but whose?'
Meng Fuyao's head started to hurt as if someone had axed it open, exposing her blood and brain. Somewhat lost in thoughts she reached for the door while keeping her eyes on that lady.
The lady made a small bow.
"Thank you, Sir, for saving my life.'
Eyes like crescent moon and demeanor so refined and poised she sat, as her moon-white dress continued to create ripples on the ground. There were Buddhism lotuses embroidered on it, and they swayed a little with the breeze, amid her friendly and calm gaze. She looked nothing like a mere mortal.
She reminded Meng Fuyao a little of Zong Yue, especially the cleanliness that she exuded. It was similar yet very different. Zong Yue was distant and cold while she was warm and meticulous, sincere and welcoming.
Meng Fuyao looked at the blood and dust on her body, suddenly feeling like a contaminated person before a lady like that. She stepped back and tried as best as she could to angle herself in the most flattering way, smiling, "Welcome, welcome. Excuse me."
At that, Meng Fuyao turned to walk away, no longer wanting to seek trouble. This bunch seemed capable of getting to the temple themselves, and her assistance probably wasn't necessary.
A lady's voice sounded from behind. "You're not going to help all the way, Sir…?"
"Don't speak nonsense, Ming Ruo."
"Why should I do that? Am I your aunt?" Meng Fuyao turned back with a halfhearted smile. "Mother is expecting me for dinner. Excuse me."
"They'll come back for us! We'll give you gold and silver. Please protect us!" The servant girl rushed up to her and held her sleeve. "How much do you want? How much?"
These people were getting used to her help, thinking that money could buy them loyalty. Meng Fuyao shook her head and retrieved a stack of bills. Then, she shoved it into the girl's hand. "I have them too. How much does it cost for you to let go of me?"
"Come back, Ming Ruo," the lady opened her mouth, her voice containing no anger.
Meng Fuyao smiled and strode off, one to hear the servant girl stomping toward her once more with reddened eyes.
"You are from Wuji. You have to send us to Zhongzhou. She is Princess Lotus from Xuanji Nation, also your prince's wife-to-be."
Meng Fuyao stopped in her track, blinking her eyes. 'Erm… fiancé?'
A ball of tangled mess seemed to have entered her heart, releasing smoke into her internal organs. It was prickly uncomfortable, and even her throat felt choked. Meng Fuyao was neither able to purge it out nor swallow it down, despite desperate attempts to cough and clear it out.
Meng Fuyao lifted her head somewhat absentmindedly, but her eyes were fully functioning. In fact, she caught sight of a caterpillar resting on the uppermost leaf of a tree that stood 30 meters away. It had a strikingly ugly color. She was almost certain that the jabbing feeling in her chest was caused by the caterpillar drilling its way in.
She stood there, forgetting how to move for a moment. It was as if her limbs weren't where they were supposed to be; as if they did not belong to her. The sky was crashing down on her like a metal pot lid.
Tie Cheng's sword dropped to the ground, and he started stuttering, "She… you…"
"What her and what me?" Meng Fuyao responded, inwardly thankful for his interjection. The metal lid had vanished in the same instant he pulled her out of darkness. Hurriedly pushing the responsibility to him, she yelled, "Let's talk nicely."
Tie Cheng threw a knowing glance her way and fell into silence. Redfaced, he rolled his eyes toward the sky and stabbed his own sword into the ground.
Something was squirming in her sleeves, and it was probably Lord Yuan Bao, who was excited to get out. Not wanting a third boob, Meng Fuyao did not let him rest in her chest pocket. As such, whenever he wanted to come out, he would struggle a little. Not in the mood to entertain him, Meng Fuyao buttoned her sleeve up. She wasn't going to be able to translate if he started scolding people.
She turned around to look at the gently smiling princess. 'This is… his wife-to-be? What elegance. How… compatible.'
"Princess Lotus?" Meng Fuyao called out upon calming down. She bowed slightly, adding, "I have been rude."
The servant girl turned her nose up in arrogance and snorted. "I knew that would work," she commented.
"Ming Ruo!" The princess uttered before returning Meng Fuyao's gesture. "She is just a young girl, don't mind her."
Her brows were beautifully arched, and so was her smile. There was a natural magnanimity about her, but she also carried a youthful charm. To Meng Fuyao, she was the epitome of femininity and grace. 'Princess, princess…'
A curl formed on her lips. "Can't blame her for that, then."
Princess Lotus was at a loss for words, and the servant girl was fuming by now, and she shot Meng Fuyao a deadly glare.
"Tie Cheng," Meng Fuyao called for him without looking at anyone. "Bring them to Zhongzhou to meet the prince, and then come look for me."
"Me?" Tie Cheng asked, eyes opening wide and finger to his nose. Seeing the certainty in her eyes, he fell into a rage and split the tree before him into two. Taking a seat on the stump, he defied. "I'm not doing it."
"I'm ordering, and not pleading," Meng Fuyao blew up. "You don't wanna go? No? Then get lost and go home. I'll never use you again."