Chapter 10: The Zither
During the moment Zi Yinye stood up, Ren Fengyao sensed her suddenly become icy, but when she said the two words, “I’ll play”, the coldness instantly evaporated, as if it never existed. He sensed something was off.
Slowly approaching the zither, Zi Yinye gradually suppressed her ire with each step. Everyone has their bottom line and today, she had been almost incited to the point of fury by that woman, but at this moment, she could not afford to show it.
Sitting behind the zither with her head held low, Zi Yinye still portrayed herself in a docile, pitiful manner. Only, her eyes were frigid cold. They could only hear her say bashfully, “Yinye learned the zither during her childhood, but Yinye is untalented, unable to play well not matter what, so Yinye was scolded by her teacher a lot. Currently, Yinye doesn’t know if everyone can bear listening. If Yinye makes any mistakes, please do not ridicule Yinye.”
With a wave of her lily white hands, the sound of the zither broke out. A wave of killing intent instantly pervaded the air.
Zi Yinye was actually playing《Broken Waves》?! This piece was originally intended for the lute, but was currently being played on a zither. Instead of weakening the imposing manner, it added a more desolate air. The zither rippled, sounding as if all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were engaging in close combat, the sound of battle cries, the sound of the clash of swords all flowing out of the zither, attacking the audience face on, unfolding a deathly story. The entire audience seemed to be amidst a bloody spectacle. The despair, cruel killings were so fearsome. The unnerved Princess Xie then discovered that Zi Yinye was staring at her, motionless. Her pair of lustrous eyes were full of cruelty and sneer, causing the princess to shy away.
Her fingers flying over the strings, Zi Yinye surveyed the people she had brought to the battlefield, colding smiling seeing each of their expressions. It wasn’t that she didn’t know how to play, but that no one was worthy of listening to her play. Her playing was also hypnotic. Unless they could break through the bewildering effects, no one would dare to listen, so she usually never played before other people. But she wasn’t willing to be harassed any more.
The blood red sun shined on the earth that was dyed red. Splayed limbs scattered the ground. The gun smoke dissipated and the fighting stopped. A gust of wind wailed, as if recounting the helpless and merciless battle. Troops broken, men dead. There was nothing more despairing than death, nothing more rejoiceful than life.
The finale note resonated sorrowfully in the air. Zi Yinye swept her gaze over the dazed crowd, sneering disdainfully. Perhaps none of them had seen the true cruelties of war that she had seen. She had witnessed war with her own eyes, otherwise, she would not have agreed to help Hua Jianli reunite a country. War was cruel and most pitifully were the poor commoners who experienced the chaos of war firsthand. Therefore, Zhi nation had to be reunited. Only if it reunited would the chaos stop, the war stop. Thus, she had to leave the gorgeous world that did not suit her.
The debauched nobility only wasted money on extravagance. And men of high status never failed to lack the ability to resist the lure of beauty. Such were the rich. Abominable.
Suppressing the disgust in her eyes, Zi Yinye stood up and curtsied. “Yinye knows few pieces. Only this one she is most familiar with. Perhaps, perhaps…”
“To be able to play a piece intended for the lute on a zither and with such drive, Madam, your zither skill is unmatched,” Ren Fengyao praised warmly. He was the first one to return to his senses.
With Ren Fengyao’s words, the rest of the hall stirred. Ren Fengyao abruptly stood up from his seat. “Your majesty, the sky is not bright any more. Please let me** and my** be excused!”
Once he said this, Ren Fengyao went up to Zi Yinye and grabbed her hand gently. Without waiting for Dongfang Chao to respond, he gave a nod, then led Zi Yinye out, completely ignoring the looks and glances within the hall. Watching as Ren Fengyao disappeared at the door, Dongfang Chao smiled bitterly. Jing Xuan seemed to be angry now. Although his tone was calm, Dongfang Chao knew the more calm Ren Fengyao appeared, the more angry he was. And it was a given. No matter what, Zi Yinye was still his wife, but he had made her publically perform on the zither to entertain them. Anyone would feel humiliation. It seemed that the line had been crossed this time.
Inside the carriage, Ren Fengyao and Zi Yinye each sat at opposite sides without a word. The wheels of the carriage left tracks in the snow in the serene night, creaking as it went, making the mood even more heavy.
“I am sorry!”
Ren Fengyao’s voice suddenly broke through the silence, leaving Zi Yinye a bit surprised. She raised her head, not understanding.
“I am sorry. You have been humiliated because of me.”
It was very dim inside the carriage. Zi Yinye could not see his expression clearly. She could only see a rough silhouette, which meant that he should not be able to see her expression either. Her eyes instantly glistened. She didn’t try to conceal the curiosity in her eyes, but her voice was once again weak and pitiful as she said, “Husband*, Yinye does not understand what you* mean.”
“Today, Princess Xie must have mistreated you.”
“N-not so badly.” Matching her grieved tone, Zi Yinye lowered her head, but remembering that there was no way for Ren Fengyao to see her actions or expressions, she raised her head again. “Has Yinye done anything wrong before?”
“No, it’s not you, but… I am sorry!”
“Why is Husband* apologizing to Yinye. It’s not Husband’s* fault.”
“Truthfully…” Ren Fengyao hesitated, then said slowly, “Truthfully, the reason why she treated you that was was because of me.”
Hearing Ren Fengyao come to the topic at hand, Zi Yinye felt a little intrigued. Her eyes opened abruptly and she faced Ren Fengyao excitedly, only to hear him say, “I was childhood friends with Wanqiu. We grew up together and had a fairly good relationship. Originally… But later, my family ran into trouble and I had to leave. Once I returned, Wanqiu had already married. But I hadn’t expected Wanqiu to harbor…”
Eh, it was just as Xie Zhiqiu had said and he paused so many times too. She had thought she would hear new details! Boring! Zi Yinye gave him a hard look, and then switched to another question. “Does Princess Xie like you?” It was more interesting to ask the person himself. Also, he had called her “Wanqiu”!*
*calling by first name = closeness
Slightly awkwardly, he gave an ambiguous answer. “Perhaps.”
What “maybe”? If she did, she did. If she didn’t, she didn’t. Way to beat around the bush. Rolling her eyes, Zi Yinye curled her lip in disdain, then said, “Then what about Husband*?”
After he seemed to ponder for a while, he said, “I have been by myself ever since I was young, so I had always considered the three siblings as my blood brothers and sisters. In my heart, Wanqiu is my little sister!”
Bullshit! If it weren’t for some kind of special relationship, then would Xie Wanqiu be so intent on making trouble for her? And Xie Zhiqiu had said that if it weren’t for the mishap falling onto your family, then you and Xie Wanqiu would have long been married. Yet you say you’ve always regarded her as a sister? Lies!
Zi Yinye did not say any more. Her eyes were filled with disdain and ridicule as she smirked at Ren Fengyao. But then, she heard very faintly a laugh. Alarmed, she said immediately, “Husband*, what are you laughing about?”
“Nothing, I just thought of something interesting!” Then, he said, his tone a little lighthearted, “Truthfully, there was much joy in my childhood. It’s only a pity that I cannot return.”
After a quiet intake of breath, Zi Yinye thought to herself, I thought you had seen my smirk, that surprised me. But if you, a useless scholar, could really see what I was doing, then it would be unbelievable. If even I, who practice martial arts cannot see anything, then it was impossible for you! And I’m still wearing a veil! As Zi Yinye let out a breath, Ren Fengyao spoke again. “Lady Qi, I have not given much attention to you ever since we had been married. I hope you do not take this to heart. Truthfully, I know the servants and Mistresses Jingyi and Zhen have deliberately made it hard for you, but I cannot show that I care.”
“Yinye understands! Yinye also thanks my lord for upholding his promise!”
“Staying at the minister’s residency has made it hard for you. You can move to the other courtyard in a few days. I will order for everything to be prepared as soon as possible. This way, you can have a bit more freedom.”
Head low, Zi Yinye said, “Good! I will be depending on you, my lord.”
She finally didn’t have to act any more? She had been very exhausted the past few days. Turning her gaze to the darkness outside the window, she could see nothing. Her eyes were full of helplessness.
Right after returning, Zi Yinye asked, “Chun Ri, what happened exactly? How come Ren Fengyao came?”
“I** called him over.” Chun Ri’s head was low. “My lady, after you were lead away, I** waited so long for you, but to no avail, so I went to ask Princess Xie, but Princess Xie ignored me** completely. With no other choice, I** tried to find you myself, but the prince’s residence is so large, I** had no idea where you could be. I** was afraid that something had happened to you, so I secretly left to find his lordship. Fortunately, his lordship had returned from the court already back to his home, otherwise…”
Zi Yinye shook her head, saying exasperatedly, “Look here missy, didn’t I tell you not to do anything without my permission? Fortunately Princess Xie did not harbor ill will towards you, otherwise, would you still be standing here just fine? Luckily she ignored you when you asked her so boldly. If she directed her anger towards you… Secretly disposing a few people wouldn’t even make much of a secret. Don’t you know…”
Seeing Chun Ri’s sorrowful expression, Zi Yinye didn’t feel like admonishing her any more. Her tone changed as she said, “After you went back to find Ren Fengyao, he came with you immediately?”
She shook her head. “No. He* told me to first return to the prince’s residence to inquire about your whereabouts, so I hurriedly left. Soon after I returned to the prince’s residence, he, the emperor, and Princess Rongfei had come together.”
“Oh, is that so. Just think, for just a princess’s birthday banquet, the emperor himself came to join, but it turns out he had been invited. No wonder!” Zi Yinye laughed into her sleeve.
“No wonder what? Was there something strange?”
“Of course. The princess had only invited women to her banquet, so Ren Fengyao would not be able to join. Moreover, he avoids the princess. He wouldn’t try to incite gossip, so he went to the palace for backup. Afterall, he can even enter the harem palace of the emperor, so accompanied with the emperor, he can go anywhere. With just this, all the focus will shift to the emperor.”
Chun Ri said curiously, “My lady, why would his lordship avoid the princess? And why would Princess Xie target you?”
“Little missy, there are some things that should remain unquestioned. Gossiping like others will bring you misfortune.”
“My lady, since when was I gossiping! I was only worried about you!”
Pinching Chun Ri’s cheek, Zi Yinye smiled. “Alright, enough chit-chatting. We’re about to move elsewhere in a few days.”
“My lady, are we really going to move out?”
Zi Yinye laughed, amused. “You’re really unwilling? Or do you want to keep on being at odds with those two ‘witches’?”
“My lady, you only know to tease me. I’ll go to prepare right now.” Chun Ri got up, but turned around suddenly. “My lady, maybe it’s better to not tell Qiu Xing to prepare to leave yet. Staying here, you will be taken care off. I’m** afraid that princess will try to invite you again and try to cause trouble for you again.”
“Naive girl, you think I’m that weak? You think I have to go if she invites me? There was no choice this time, but next time, I can just fake illness. It’s not like I’m unable to protect myself either. Furthermore, if Qiu Xing doesn’t prepare to leave beforehand, when I escape, how will you two escape? Enough, go and prepare. I won’t do anything out of line, you don’t have to worry.”