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Wanyan Ba, the Grand Prince in North Di, should have engaged with this infanta. Qin Yunuan listened to that woman carefully. This sounded like a coincidence, but after a closer look, it really made sense. Other than being brutal and hot-tempered, Wanyan Ba was a good match for her given his family background, status and appearance. It seemed that West Xia now was not as powerful as before. It should resort to the imperial matrimony with another country for peace.
“Mengzhu, shut up.” Mu Qingyu frowned with her arched eyebrows knitted. “How can you talk about this casually? The emperor hasn’t issued any edict, so stop your wild guess.”
The woman in red was in a sulk and pouted. Feeling aggrieved, she walked behind Mu Qingyu and hid herself. Mu Qingyu looked up at Qin Yunuan, and the latter just gave her a light smile. “I’ve heard that the emperor is not feeling well these days. So he won’t ask you to marry the prince soon. Your Grace, don’t worry.”
Mu Qingyu nodded and added, “If that’s my fate, I’ll accept it. I’m not going to change anything. We welcome a new powerful Taoist master to the palace. He has made many lifesaving pills for the emperor, who, therefore, feels better now and will attend the feast two days later.”
Between her words, Qin Yunuan nosed out the physical condition of Jing Donghua, the incumbent emperor of West Xia.
Qin Yunuan curtseyed and said, “The Taoist master is really almighty. I think the person who invites him to treat the emperor truly got something.”
“Of course.” The woman in red said immediately. “It’s the Crown Prince in West Xia finding that master. Although he’s not as agile as the Thirteenth Prince, he is rather sincere to the emperor. Compared with those who are brutal and cold-blooded, he’s…”
“Mengzhu!” Mu Qingyu scolded the woman in red. Such a weak girl suddenly became so harsh, which indeed made her look unfamiliar. “How dare you? How can you, a noble lady, make improper remarks on a prince?”
“Qingyu.” The woman in red rubbed against Mu Qingyu.
“We’ve bothered you for a long time. I think it’s time for you to go to bed and for us to take a leave.” Mu Qingyu left quickly, along with her servants and guards. The courtyard suddenly quieted down, looking as if nothing happened just now.
Back to the room, Qin Yunuan saw Leng Changxi was putting his spear back to the shelf. The black-painted shelf and the glittering spear complemented each other. When Leng Changxi looked back, Qin Yunuan said after thinking for a while, “The woman in red who stood next to Mu Qingyu mentioned many times the engagement between Mu Qingyu and Wanyan Ba. Every time she spoke of this, Mu Qingyu scolded her for not behaving herself. But why did she talk much about the emperor’s physical condition when I asked? Hasn’t she behaved herself? Any noble lady or imperial infanta who acts with propriety won’t make any remark on the emperor’s health condition, let alone Infanta Mu, a woman strictly complying with ethical norms.”
“You mean she’s dropping you a hint?”
“Think over the adjective she used. The master made ‘lifesaving’ pills for the emperor. This means the emperor was terminally ill and close to death. But now, he should be able to attend the feast. He recovers so fast. Remember that Doctor Sun has taught me, people normally catch diseases very quickly but recover slowly. And any pill that can cure people fast can actually be seen as poison.” While thinking, Qin Yunuan tapped at the edge of the tea table, making a knocking sound.
“You mean, the master has evil intentions?” Leng Changxi paused and then added, “Or, the Crown Prince does?”
“Not really.” Qin Yunuan looked through the ajar window lattice at the Elder Princess who was in the principal room on the opposite. Xinger was helping her unbound her hair and preparing her for a nap. Being taken good care of these days, the Elder Princess was not the crazy woman in the Yeren Valley anymore.
She now had fair and smooth skin as well as red lips and sunset-like rosy cheeks. Not considering wrinkles that the flying time left on her, she, who was the First Beauty in Qi, still looked as pretty as before.
“We can’t let the Elder Princess meet the emperor in the feast two days later. At that time, everything will be out of our control.”
Leng Changxi nodded. If Xinger found out that the nepenthe became ineffective on the Elder Princess, she would remind Jing Yuanchu to kill her in advance.
“Lu Wuyi gave me a few antidotes before he left. I think it’s time now.” Jing Yuanchu “picked up” Lu Wuyi on his way back, so the latter must have followed the former back to the Prince’s Mansion. But it was unclear how he was going now. However, Qin Yunuan didn’t want to spare any time to care about him, a man who didn’t cherish friendship. Maybe Lu Wuyi once had cared about his master, Su Chenghai. However, while hoping to take revenge for Su Chenghai, Lu Wuyi relapsed into pleasure-seeking and threw the revenge plan into wind.
Leng Changxi also thought they shouldn’t drag on. But there were only Cha and his three men on their side. They could achieve nothing. They needed a helper, and then a name came to Leng Changxi’s mind.
At late night, West Liang, which soaked into the darkness, was quiet and peaceful, as everyone fell into sleep except men and whores in the whorehouse.
Only in a delicate boudoir in a spacious courtyard, the lights were on. Under the candlelight, a good-looking woman was transcribing Confucian classics. She seemed sleepy and almost closed her eyes, which meant she couldn’t continue to work anymore. Supporting the heavy head with her elbow, she already couldn’t see characters clearly.
A servant girl came in once to pour a cup of strong tea for the woman, who was engaged in classic transcription. The servant girl gave a cautious suggestion. “Your Grace, it’s not good for your health to always drink strong tea at midnight. If Old Madam knows you painstakingly transcribe classics for her, she will feel sorry about this.”
“I know. You can go to bed if you feel tired.” After sending her servant girl away, the woman stretched herself and walked to the window. In the sky dotted with just a few stars, the moonlight was so bright and charming. But she chose to close the window in silence. Turning around, she said in a casual way, “General Leng, why not show yourself?”
It remained quiet in the room, but suddenly, a man landed.
Leng Changxi, who was in all black, still wore his silver mask. He hadn’t taken it off since he left Qi. But people all knew he loved to wear it so didn’t give a second thought about this.
Leng Changxi cupped his hands and said politely, “Your Grace, it’s rather inappropriate for me to break in your room at midnight. Please forgive me.”
“You must have an urgent reason to do so. Feel free to say it.” Mu Qingyu came straight to the point. To transcribe classics at late night, she didn’t get changed and still dressed in the white dress she wore at daytime. So it was fine for her to meet Leng Changxi. But what was beyond exception was that she, an always strict rule-taker, should feel calm when seeing Leng Changxi broke in her room.
“I’m here to ask you a favor.”
Mu Qingyu smiled and hinted to him to go on.
“Your Grace, I know you are from a prestigious family, enjoy an exalted status and have been granted an imperial token that allows you to enter the palace at will. So I hope you can take one person to the palace tomorrow when you visit the emperor.”
“I know.” Mu Qingyu tilted her head a bit and continued, “You want me to take the Elder Princess, your mother, to the palace, right?”
Leng Changxi cupped his hands and said, “Your Grace, you’re really ready-witted.”
“Ho,” Mu Qingyu shook her head and added, “I’m not a ready-witted person, but sensible one that knows Jing Yuanchu is unreliable. For ordinary residents in West Xia, he is a kind and sincere prince; for officials, he is a highly potential meritorious hero; and for the emperor, he is his most brilliant son. If the Crown Prince candidate in West Xia was not strictly restricted to the eldest son, the emperor would have appointed Jing Yuanchu as the Crown Prince long time ago.”
Taking a glance at Leng Changxi, Mu Qingyu continued, “But, only people who have dealt with Jing Yuanchu in person, like me, know how disgusting and dirty he is…”
Mu Qingyu got excited, and she couldn’t help uttering many words to curse Jing Yuanchu. Leng Changxi paid special attention to this. Squinting his eyes, he carefully observed every expression on Mu Qingyu’s face in the way Qin Yunuan taught him.
“Sorry for my rudeness.”
“It’s fine.” Leng Changxi smiled and seemed he didn’t care about this. At that time, he could conclude that Mu Qingyu had a relationship with Jing Yuanchu before, which was a piece of good news for him.
“I will take your mom to the palace.” Mu Qingyu said while looking at Leng Changxi. “To reward you for saving me when I was young. I clearly remember that when I went to Qi with my father at 12, soldiers at the range deliberately shot an arrow towards me. You saved me at that time, and I’m grateful for that. I was once longing to marry you, so I begged my father to make an unreasonable request. But now, I already know I’m not good enough for you.”
“Your Grace.” Seeing Mu Qingyu suddenly became sad, Leng Changxi didn’t know how to comfort her.
“No need to comfort me.” Mu Qingyu raised her head to prevent tears from coming out. “Born in a royal family, I can’t make my own decision on many things, including my life and my marriage. I know you are married, and you love your wife. You and I, we two actually have little connection except for being playmates for merely three months. It’s not a big deal, and you don’t have to hold on to that.”
Leng Changxi didn’t explain more and just cupped his hands again. “Your Grace, thank you for your help. Please take care.”
Mu Qingyu smiled while seeing he left. But Leng Changxi suddenly turned around and reassured her, “Your Grace, don’t worry. You won’t have to marry North Di’s prince.” Then, he left without looking back.
Mu Qingyu alone was murmuring, “Right. I don’t have to marry North Di’s prince. But neither can I marry you. It’s pointless.”
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