Translated by Shiny
35. Releasing Lanterns
There were two converging rivers; the Ji River and the Si River, connected together within the national borders of the State of Wei.
The capital of the country was located by the banks of Dayeze.
Hence, from the monarch to the commoners, they all practiced a custom of offering sacrifices to the Dragon God in the hopes of having a favourable year of bountiful harvests and for the peace and prosperity of the country.
This present day, after concluding the offerings, Duke Wei Heng; Yao Hong hosted a banquet to entertain his officials.
At the head of the banquet, numerous officials were offering their felicitations together.
The Duke of Jin Nation, Cheng Qianye sat in the lower position beside him and proposed several toasts to him as he heaped him with countless praises.
Yao Hong’s heart was filled with smug complacency as he happily indulged in wine before collapsing from intoxication and being sent off to the harem to rest.
Yao Tianxiang and Cheng Qianye excused themselves from the banquet soon after and went off to pay their respects to Old Lady Ji.
Old Lady Ji pulled Cheng Qianye’s hand and said, “This child, Tianxiang has been spoiled by me since she was a child and grown up to be arrogant and wilful. I wish to ask my son-in-law to be more magnanimous to her.”
“What are you saying Mother? Being able to take Tianxiang as my wife must be a blessing I have cultivated in my previous life.”
“Mother, I give you my word that as long as I am in this world, I will keep her safe and happy and all will be well.”
Cheng Qianye smiled as she replied respectfully, however, her heart was filled with uneasiness.
Both this Old Lady and even Yao Hong at the banquet were in an abnormal state of mind.
Whenever they faced Yao Tianxiang, their emotions were coloured by guilt to a certain extent.
This emotion wasn’t aimed towards Cheng Qianye, but they must have done something to Tianxiang which made them have a guilty conscience.
Old Lady Ji continued to pat her hand. “Good child, good child. With your words, I can rest assured.”
Then her expression turned serious as she reprimanded Yao Tianxiang, “Now that you’re married, you have to conduct yourself as a wife. Husband and wife,1 it is your duty to serve your husband, you must put an end to those childish tempers you have raised in your mother’s house.”
Yao Tianxiang returned, “Mother, don’t go around listening to slanderous gossip. The relationship between me and Fuma2 is very good, I haven’t thrown any tempers since we got married.”
She pulled Cheng Qianye’s arm. “I was just about to tell Mother that I want to go to the riverbank and release lanterns with My Husband while it is still early to pray for the blessings of Mother and Elder Brother.”
“Okay okay, looking at you sweet husband and wife, I have already received all the blessings. You go and release a lantern on my behalf as well, pray for the harmony between you husband and wife so that I can hold my grandson as soon as possible.”
Yao Tianxiang giggled and said softly, “Mother, then I’ll go.”
She straightened out her clothes and kowtowed three times before rising to her feet and taking Cheng Qianye’s hand, walking away without looking back.
They arrived at the palace gates.
After entering the carriage, the couple were alone.
Cheng Qianye comforted her, “Everything will be fine, are you reluctant to part from your mother?”
“Even if I am reluctant, I would still have to do it. I have already been married, remarriage was also merely a matter of time. If I can marry well, then it’s fine, it’s the greatest consolation for mother.”
She restrained the tears in her eyes as she gazed fixedly at Cheng Qianye, “So, don’t let me down.”
Cheng Qianye squeezed her hand as they looked at each other, silently giving her confidence.
Yao Tianxiang wiped her face and said, “Elder Brother is drunk and his subordinates will not dare to do anything to me without his decree. The timing is perfect now, we should go back and get changed right away.”
Cheng Qianye frowned. She still had the feeling that something was abnormal.
She lifted up the curtain and looked outside to see that Mo Qiao Sheng was riding a horse with another attendant beside him.
“Oh! By the way, how come someone else is driving the carriage today? Where is that Sima Tu?” Cheng Qianye asked.
“I don’t know why but Brother specially sent a carriage to pick us up today, so he didn’t follow.” Yao Tianxiang answered absent-mindedly.
Cheng Qianye recalled Old Lady Ji’s words with the idea of instructing and the way Yao Hong kept glancing at Yao Tianxiang with a lustre of remorse and a sense of uneasiness rose in her heart.
“Qiao Sheng.” Cheng Qianye lifted the curtain and Mo Qiao Sheng came towards her. She whispered softly in his ear, “You go back first and look for Princess’ stable lad. Make sure he’s safe and don’t let anything happen to him.”
Mo Qiao Sheng nodded his head and rode away.
“What’s the matter?” Yao Tianxiang asked.
“It’s nothing.” Cheng Qianye looked outside of the carriage. “I just have a small suspicion, I hope it’s just my imagination.”
Now that the arrow was notched and everything was in place, she just hoped nothing unexpected would crop up.
Moreover, she did not wish to see Yao Tianxiang confronted with that sort of pain.
Mo Qiao Sheng’s horse raced back to the Princess’ mansion and he slipped into the backyard with the use of lightness skill. He searched around several times and sure enough, he found four or five imperial guards at the stables holding Sima Tu down onto the ground.
One of them gesticulated and commanded loudly, “Hurry up, keep your hands and feet clean, the Princess will come back in a moment and she might find us.”
“Just a mere stable lad, yet he wasted so much of this grandpa’s time. He almost got away too.” The man’s face was bruised and swollen, it was obvious that there had been a fierce struggle just a moment ago.
He covered his face and grimaced, “If I mess up such a trivial matter, the monarch will blame me. I can’t afford this crime.”
The rest of the guards pushed the struggling Sima Tu down on the ground. They placed one sandbag after another on top of his body until the figure underneath was unable to move.
“Okay. Just wait for a quarter of an hour. Remove the sandbags when he stops breathing. The cause of death is unknown. He was struck with a sudden disease. Princess won’t be able to blame anyone.”
“Brother, don’t blame us. You’re just a stable lad but you dared to touch the Princess. You should have already been prepared for this. This is what we call dying under a peony, and happy to be a ghost.”3
Several people encircled the man who was crushed beneath the sandbags as they all spoke energetically, maliciously watching a life slowly dying right before their eyes.
A dark shadow flashed outside the window.
The leader of the guards heard a sound, but before he could react, two of his companions collapsed onto the ground.
A man dressed in black appearing inside, his legs moved like the wind as he spun around and sent out a kick. Another man was brought down in a flash and he turned his chilling gaze towards the remaining man.
The imperial guard only managed to say half a sentence, “Who-”
An iron fist cut through the air before landing on his face with a thunderous impact. His vision went black as he lost consciousness.
Cheng Qianye and Yao Tianxiang returned to the mansion. They dismissed the servants, leaving only one or two trusted aides behind.
Mo Qiao Sheng left those guards behind and carried the unconscious man into the house before laying him on the ground.
Yao Tianxiang’s face turned white and she sprung up to her feet.
“He’s fine, just unconscious.” Mo Qiao Sheng knelt and saluted. Luckily, Master realized it in time. If I was even a moment late, I’m afraid that….”
Yao Tianxiang took two steps forward and looked at the wan figure with his eyebrows furrowed lying down on the ground. She clenched her hands into fists and a slight tremor ran through her.
Cheng Qianye scrutinized the unconscious figure before standing up and patting Yao Tianxiang’s shoulder, “Fortunately, he’s fine, it’ll be alright.”
“I fell for a stable lad.” Yao Tianxiang raised her eyebrows. “He’s handsome, kind and makes me happy, but most importantly, I will always be the only one in his eyes.”
“Mother says that he is a lowly man and undeserving of me, but I still like him, I only like him.”
Sima Tu regained consciousness and coughed before looking up at Yao Tianxiang.
“Elder Brother found out about this matter and flew into a terrible rage, wanting to execute him. I hugged his leg and begged him.” A tear fell down from Yao Tianxiang’s pretty eyes. “Elder Brother finally agreed to let him go, but I was told to marry off into the Lu Country to a nasty old man who was the same age as my father.”
She straightened her neck and reached out to wipe away the tear. “So I got married. In any case, I would have had to get married sooner or later, so why should I let my beloved die in vain?”
“After I married Duke Luzhuang, I pestered him every night and continuously sent singing girls and male pets to him. Sure enough, I regained my freedom in less than a year.” Yao Tianxiang laughed. “I came back and Elder Brother seemed to feel guilty towards me and stopped interfering with my private affairs and even sent him to my side.”
“I was baffled, but I thought that at last, even if it was only for a short moment, I could live as if I was dreaming with the person I love.”
Her smile faded abruptly as she reached out to that man, “Get up and follow me. Let’s leave this place together and never come back.”
Sima Tu didn’t take her hand and just looked at her. “Princess, Xiaoren’s4 death is not worthy of your bitterness, how can you forsake your home and your closest kin for Xiaoren’s sake….?”
He turned and glanced at Cheng Qianye, his eyes filled with distrust.
Yao Tianxiang’s hand was still stretched out and she said coldly, “Sima Tu, I will give you two choices. You can either choose to follow me and leave, or you can get up now and get out of here, never see me again.”
Sima Tu furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at her for a moment before taking that small and exquisite, yet firm hand. He rose to his feet and held Yao Tianxiang in his embrace.
Yao Tianxiang brought several trusted aides who carried her simple luggage with them as she walked out of the mansion with Cheng Qianye.
A lady steward crouched in salute and asked smilingly, “Where are Princess and Fuma Ye going in such a hurry?”
Yao Tianxiang snorted and returned, “Since when was it your turn to manage my business? Mother ordered me to take Fuma with me to the riverside to release lanterns to wish for good fortune, do I even have to report to you?”
She left her behind and continued forward.
Liu Lu and Chun Xin appeared on either side and pulled Cheng Qianye’s arms, “Fuma Ye, will you take us with you when you go to release the lanterns? This is Xiaoren’s first time in the State of Wei and I still haven’t seen the river lanterns.”
Cheng Qianye smiled and pinched Liu Lu’s face. “Let’s go, I’ll take you with me.”
The lady steward looked at Cheng Qianye’s composed manner and slightly relaxed the anxiety in her heart after she saw that she was willing to take Liu Lu and Chun Xin along with them. Once they were far away, she beckoned for a trusted subordinate to come closer.
“Go report to the Lord that Fuma Ye and Princess have gone out.”
The trusted subordinate responded, “The Duke is drunk, perhaps we shouldn’t disturb him so rashly. Besides, the Old Lady also approved of this matter, what if Princess is really just going to the river to release lanterns….
The lady steward stamped her foot. “Fine, fine, you go inform Advisor Chen about this and let a few agile men follow them from afar and see where the Princess’ carriage is going. Have them return quickly if something seems amiss.”
Yao Tianxiang’s carriage was very roomy and Liu Lu and Chun Xin waited on them solicitously.
Liu Lu gradually became aware of the strangeness of the atmosphere.
Regardless of their jokes and teasing, Princess Tianxiang’s face remained pensive as she looked out through the window.
Fuma Ye still had a gentle smile on his face as usual, but this smile did not reach his eyes.
That slave, Mo Qiao Sheng coldly knelt in the corner without saying a single word.
Liu Lu noticed the abnormality and her heart gradually filled with fear. “Fuma Ye, we have been travelling for a long time now, why haven’t we reached the riverbank yet? Are we going the wrong way?”
Cheng Qianye smiled and waved at Mo Qiao Sheng. “Xiao Mo, get rid of them. You have been enduring for a long time, you can vent now.”
They waited for Mo Qiao Sheng to tie up and block the mouths of the two panic-stricken people before dragging them off the carriage. Cheng Qianye raised the curtain again and said, “Hey, be gentle, don’t endanger their lives.”
Yao Tianxiang threw a glance at her. “Being so merciful, you’re the monarch of a country yet you’re so soft-hearted.”
Cheng Qianye touched her nose. “After all, she is a beauty.”
1. Five relationships of confucianism, the relationship of ruler to subject, father to son, husband to wife, elder to younger and friend to friend. The husband must honour his wife as he respects her and must also provide a living for his family. The wife must be obedient to her husband and must not bring shame to the family.↩
2. (驸马 – Fuma) – Princess’ husband↩
3. (牡丹花下死，做鬼也风流 – mǔ dān huā xià sǐ , zuò guǐ yě fēng liú) – loving a woman enough that you would give your life for her / there are no regrets if you die beneath a beauty. ↩
4. (小人 – Xiaoren) – I, me / This humble man / This ordinary man / Villain, Base person [A humble way to refer to oneself / Used by a person of low social status when speaking to his betters.]↩