Zhan Nancheng paused and said softly, "Flames melt the snowflakes as the moon appears…"
The snowflakes, the moonlight, the stunning queen from many years ago. Zhan Nancheng stared at the back that remained in his cherished memories.
"… When I saw you, you didn't feel like the queen of the nation, but rather a young girl-next-door. Delicate, playful, exquisite, noble and innocent. Yet, that prideful aura you displayed made me feel that no one else but you were suited to be the queen. "
Meng Fuyao trembled a little. 'The heck, is this something a "stepson" should tell her "stepmother"?'
"… You should have never gone mad. When the troops invaded the palace, you greeted them with a smile like the way a prideful queen would to her people. You were such a strong woman, why did you go mad? But perhaps, this unyielding part of you was your undoing… when father raped you, and you got pregnant."
When a powerful person breaks down, it is harder for them to stand back up again.
Meng Fuyao closed her eyes. 'I see, I see, that was what happened.'
The shadow behind her moved slightly, as though Zhan Nancheng was about to leave. Meng Fuyao's heart leaped with joy when suddenly, a timid knock could be heard from outside.
Zhan Nancheng, unable to reconcile the past with the present, was confused by his own emotions. Upon hearing the knocking, he became even more frustrated and hollered, "Scram, do not disturb me!"
Outside, the eunuch bowed and retreated. Outside Xihua Palace he berated the reporting eunuch, "You useless piece of sh*t, caused me to be scolded. Ask him to scram!"
The eunuch, in his low voice, continued to emphasize his point, "That person mentioned that it was an urgent notice, Prince Lie is here…"
"Forget about Prince Lie, it would be useless even if Emperor Lie was here. The emperor is currently mad!" The old eunuch waved his sleeve and shrieked, "Ask him to scram!"
The old eunuch stormed away, and the reporting eunuch dared not say another word. The reporting eunuch went outside the palace and broke the news to a man in grey, with a cut on his finger. "Heavens will…" the man in grey sighed.
Not another word left his mouth as he turned around and rushed into the darkness. Within two kilometers, as he passed by an alley, a black pair of boots suddenly appeared in front of him.
He slowly lifted his head and saw the last flash of light in his life.
Light that reflected off the blade.
As he collapsed, he heard the last sentence he would ever hear.
"Those who betray the Prince, die!"
In that lonely street, a corpse was silently and unknowingly tossed into a drain. This assassination that happened in some random corner of some random alley was seemingly unimportant, yet, the consequences were more than far-reaching. This missed opportunity, unbeknownst to everyone and anyone, quietly changed the history of the country forever. It was the turning point of the Emperor and Prince Pan's fate, the key to the fall of an entire dynasty.
Because of this missed opportunity, Zhan Nancheng lost the chance to receive information on Zhan Beiye's location, and hence, the best opportunity to kill him.
Because of this missed opportunity, Zhan Beiye escaped death.
At this very moment, this episode was not known by any of the parties involved. Meng Fuyao stared at Zhan Nancheng that rejected the eunuch and quietly breathed a sigh of relief.
In the instant where the eunuch knocked on the door, for some reason, her heart started thumping hard against her chest, an ominous feeling enroached her. She was so nervous that she almost attacked him.
But Zhan Nancheng's thoughts were not on the critical news. He was in a state of shock, pacing about in circles after standing up. As though he finally made up his mind, he walked towards the "consort".
Zhan Beiye was in the toilet.
The female toilet was too small, so he settled for the male toilet, hanging upside down from the roof in an absolutely uncomfortable position. He stared hard at the door of the female toilet without blinking.
His heart was beating so quickly. He had never felt so nervous before in his life; not when they had no more rations left in the middle of the desert nor when he was completely surrounded by the Mo Luo troops.
Cold sweat dripped down his palm causing his hands to almost slip off the crossbar he was holding. He dug his fingers into the crossbar, unbothered by the splitters stabbing into his skin. Watching Meng Fuyao enter the palace hall, with no news, his heart got stuck at his throat. If not for the mild stabbing pain from his fingers, he would have really rushed out and pulled her back.
Zhan Beiye did not do anything but watch the girl he loved put herself in danger. This was not something he could have done. But when Meng Fuyao left, the determination and resolution in her eyes were undeniable. When Meng Fuyao left, she said, trust me.
For a girl like her, would learning to trust her be a needed journey?
In his entire life, he was used to protecting women — like towards his mother, he thought that all the women were fragile, and needed to be protected. But Meng Fuyao taught him that there was another type of women, one that was strong, independent and confident. One that did not need to rely on anybody.
Zhan Beiye pursed his lips as he stared into the darkness. The sweat in his palm slowly dried off and the nervousness gradually dissipated.
'Yes, trust her.'
Then, he saw a palace maid slowly similarly walk towards him to the Meng Fuyao who entered the palace hall.
Zhan Beiye's tears rushed up to the corner of his eyes.
That person was his mother.
He could identify her slow but light footsteps even with his eyes closed.
Biting down his lips, Zhan Beiye stared straight at his mother as she walked towards the female toilet.
Consort Dowager Gongjing focused on walking. She did not know the dangers of the moment, the worries of others nor the fact that she was the priority of Zhan Beiye and Meng Fuyao. One watching her from the toilet and the other from the window, praying with all their heart that she would reach Zhan Beiye safely.
She only remembered Meng Fuyao's words: Don't talk, lower her head, female toilet, Little Ye.
Her white figure finally disappeared into the darkness of the female toilet.
She lifted her head, and in the opposite window, saw her son's face.
Consort Dowager Gongjing stared blankly without a word but the corner of her eyes begun to turn red.
She tiptoed and stretched out her hands, across that dusty window in the female toilet. She stretched as far as possible, trying to reach the window of the male toilet, trying to touch her son's face.
Zhan Beiye immediately broke the wooden bar between them and moved forward.
In between the toilets was a thick bush which covered the gap between the two toilets and a mother's gentle touch.
At this moment, the mother and son were no longer crying. Zhan Beiye was afraid that his mother would feel his tears, and she felt happy about their reunion.
They stood individually in the smelly toilets, a foot away from each other, smiling.
Her hand gently caressed his face and plucked the beard stubble that he had no time to remove. She really did not like it.
She went in a little too heavy handed and a bit of blood oozed out. Zhan Beiye did not flinch and even cooperated to make things easier for her to pluck.
At this moment, they heard "the emperor has arrived—"
Zhan Beiye jumped and Consort Dowager's nail slit across his face. He did not realize that as he wanted to jump out of the toilet.
Halfway through, he stopped. Opposite him was his mother, looking at him with eyes of terror. He did not know what that announcement meant, but the fear and shock in Zhan Beiye's eyes spread to her. She was, now, too in a state of fright.
Zhan Beiye noticed his mother's fearful gaze and took a deep breath, calming himself down.
He could not act on a moment of impulse.
'No, things are not at its worst. Fuyao is intelligent and excels in martial arts. She might just be able to hold up against Zhan Nancheng. If I were to rush in, I might cause more harm than good.
'She said, trust her!'
He took a deep breath, held his mother hands and gently patted her.
Zhan Nancheng walked towards the bed.
His eyes were fixated on the lady's slender back. Her delicate shoulders framed an elegant butterfly, tampering into a slim waist. Her silhouette outlined her beautiful curves, reminding one of the scenic views of the mountains and lake a poem would bring to one's mind.
His breath quickened as he gazed at her.
A trip down the memory lane brought him back to that day where he had opened the door along the corridor. The scent of flowers drifted into the room. Flower petals fluttered down gently as she lifted her head. It revealed a perfect jawline and a pair of dewy lips glistening under the sun.
Her lips parted as she said, "General thank you for your hard work."
It was as though those were words of prophecy. It was indeed hard on him afterward — when she became his father's concubine, then Consort Dowager. When they had no other form of relationship with each other.
He could not have anything to do with her. The Emperor of Tiansha, the moment he fell in love with her, these were words that could not be known by anyone.
But in this moment, his guard finally came down. He felt light. This world was his, and once this woman left the protection of her son, she would be his. Why then, couldn't he get closer to look at her?
Zhan Nancheng inched in as he immersed himself in the wonderful memories of that late spring. As he leaned in, his breath tingled on the woman's shoulder.
He reached out to touch that delicate shoulder.
A blade flashed by.
At the speed of light, the blade cut across everything in sight, heading directly towards the enemy.
Meng Fuyao exerted all her strength, attacking at her fastest speed.
The reflection of light from the blade bounced around the room as Fuyao attacked. "Revenge for the prince!" howled Meng Fuyao as she pushed forward.
The blade instantly appeared beside Zhan Nancheng's chest. His eyes were filled with fury as he retreated carefully yet quickly. Yet, he did not once exchange blows with Meng Fuyao but intentionally retreated to the center of the room.
Meng Fuyao laughed coldly. "Traps?" As she continued her vicious attacks. Zhan Nancheng subconsciously titled his head, and suddenly, the blade was now at his neck, threatening to behead him anytime.