Chapter 17: Spring Hunt
The hunting grounds clamored with voices, arrows flying, an electric excitement in the air. Dongfang Chao initiated the hunt as the energy reached a peak. Unlike the Fall Hunt, the Spring Hunt was merely a formality, so the hunt was not particularly fierce. Meanwhile, the women were allowed to watch from the sidelines.
On the spacious land, the women sat in groups under the protection of soldiers, gossiping excitedly about the men disappearing quickly into the hunting grounds. Of course, they would praise their own husbands a little more.
Zi Yinye sat alone, calmly gazing into the hunting grounds. The princess still had not appeared. It seems she must have lost track of time clinging to Ren Fengyao. Gah! Whatever, she would just have to wait. Hopefully, that girl didn’t forget their agreement.
She was bored, but she could not leave. Fortunately, princess Xie had not come today. Moreover, the concubines had higher statuses than wives of officials, meaning they would not have been together; otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so at ease currently. She glanced at the fiercely gossiping womenfolk, then lowered her gaze. Here was also very lively! How was this a hunt? Clearly, it was an excursion! How… annoying!
There was a sharp and arrogant voice.
“Hey*! Do you still remember the agreement?”
*Saying “Hey” is rude in Chinese. It’s like the way you’re supposed to address strangers, so saying “hey” to someone you know is like…
Zi Yinye looked up to see Dongfang Rongfei overlooking her on horseback, nodding. She slowly got up. Finally!
The men continued to pursue the prey into the depths of the hunting ground, while the women, for fear of being lonesome, followed them in. Nobody noticed them, how fortunate! She secretly signaled Chun Ri with her eyes, grabbed the reins of the horse offered, and then mounted.
“You have the guts to ride a horse? How unexpected!” Dongfong Rongfei humphed, “If you’re brave enough, then follow me around the hunting ground once, but if you’re unlucky and run into a tiger, boar or the like, just pray you don’t get hurt.”
Zi Yinye did not say anything, only giving a slight nod. Seeing Zi Yinye giving no indication of backing down, Dongfang Rongfei suddenly felt strange. It seems that the girl she had been looking down on was not as simple as she seemed. With a cold sneer, she discarded her thoughts and urged the horse forward.
Giving Chun Ri another wink, Zi Yinye urged the horse after Dongfang Rongfei. With the atmosphere so lively, no one noticed the two entered the depths of the other side.
Wind whistled past their ears. Dongfang Rongfei whipped the horse, pressing it to go faster, but no matter how much she accelerated, Zi Yinye remained a certain distance behind, not close, but not far either. Her competitive streak aroused, she completely forgot to question how a supposedly weak lady would have such horsemanship.
Further in the royal hunting ground in the southeast was a steep cliff, the Raging River below. Dongfang Rongfei advanced furiously, unable to shake off Zi Yinye. She gritted her teeth, then urged her horse into the dense thicket. Previously, they had been racing on a wide expanse of land. It seems Dongfang Rongfei had become a bit urgent. The forest was considerably more dangerous.
Zi Yinye grinned and followed her in. It was very dim underneath the canopy and the horses were unable to run either, so she slowed her pace, letting the horse amble forward slowly. Suddenly, she heard Dongfang Rongfei yell. Alarmed, she lightly patted the horse to quicken their pace. Soon, Zi Yinye was greeted with Dongfang Rongfei’s horse lying on its side, while Dongfang Rongfei had a sword pressed to her neck by a masked man in black. What was going on?
When he saw Zi Yinye, the masked man’s grip on his sword tightened. A red line appeared on Dongfang Rongfei’s neck.
“Get off the horse!”
Zi Yinye glanced around. She obeyed, dismounting and standing quietly at the side, eyeing the man in black. Just when the man was about to say something, the sound of people came from the distance. It sounded like they were approaching their position. Within the din was the clash of swords and “Capture the assassins!”
When the man in black heard, his eyes darted around impatiently. Zi Yinye spoke.
“You are an assassin?”
The man did not reply, only saying coarsely, “Let’s go!”
Zi Yinye did not move.
“Surely you do not want to be captured! Let her go and make me your hostage. My husband is the prime minister, so I will definitely be valuable!”
Zi Yinye wagered the man in black did not know Dongfang Rongfei’s identity. Dongfang Rongfei was not stupid either. Although she struggled, she had not revealed her identity. When she heard Zi Yinye’s words, she froze. Thinking that the delicate looking girl would be easier to control than the struggling woman, the man said, “You, come over here!”
He pushed Dongfang Rongfei away and grabbed Zi Yinye, then backed away. The sound of people was growing louder and his grip tightened along with it. Zi Yinye endured the pain without a word as she retreated along with him. They were going… southeast! It seems the man was so panicked, he did not know where he was going, but for her, this was fortunate!
The man’s leg had been wounded, so their pace was not quick. They were surrounded the moment they left the thicket. The sword at Zi Yinye’s neck trembled as the man’s voice shook.
“Step back o-or I’ll kill her!”
The imperial guards surrounding them did not know who Zi Yinye was. They glanced at each other. They did not advance, but they did not back away either. The man’s grip tightened. Zi Yinye felt a piercing pain and warm blood flowed down from her neck, staining her collar. Bah, how unlucky, encountering an assassin. Her plan was not safe any more.
Just as she was pondering, a cold voice interrupted her thoughts.
“How impertinent. You have the audacity to attempt murder on the royal hunting grounds? You must be tired of living!”
When Zi Yinye heard this voice, she looked up, smiling bitterly. How could it be the prince? The situation was even more worse now.
The prince eyed the man in black expressionlessly. “Let go of Madam Ren and I* will leave your dead body intact!”
The man snickered. “Either you all back away or this woman will die with me!”
Zi Yinye lowered her gaze. If Ren Fengyao did not come, then it was highly possible she would die. The assassins must have come for the emperor’s head. Compared to an unfavored wife of a minister, the assassin should be more important. It seems she would have to think of a way to save herself. Just as she was deep in thought, there came a voice.
“All of you, step back!”
Zi Yinye looked up hopefully. It was Ren Fengyao. She mustered her tears, looking panic-stricken at Ren Fengyao, starting to trembling.
The man in black had been surrounded and his nerves were taut. Now, that the originally quiet and calm Zi Yinye was starting to tremble, he was even more unnerved.
Just when he was about to slap her, two wild boars suddenly charged towards them.
Everybody froze, while Zi Yinye’s eyes flashed with a different light. Taking advantage of the surprise, with a flick of her wrist, the sword was sent flying, and she seized the opportunity to push away the man in black, then darted to the side. Everyone’s attention had been focused the wild boars, so by the time they noticed, no one knew how Zi Yinye had escaped. But it was not the time to think about how she did it. Wild boars had suddenly appeared and the assassin was about to escape!
For some reason, the two boars were wounded, more vicious than usual. One even charged straight at Zi Yinye. Zi Yinye only had one thought left: run!
The cliff was within sight. With a twang from behind followed by a plop, Zi Yinye knew that the boar must have been shot dead, but she could not stop. Victory was at hand! Suddenly, a figure appeared. Zi Yinye ran straight into a wide chest.
“Were you shocked senseless? There’s a cliff right in front of you!”
Hearing this cold voice, Zi Yinye sighed again in her heart. Him again? How meddlesome! The boar had been influenced under drugs to attack her, but… Although she clenched her teeth angrily, she couldn’t afford to show her anger. Cursing the meddlesome prince under her breath, Zi Yinye resigned herself to her fate, turning around and appearing as if she were genuinely terrified as she froze in place. After some time, she dropped to her knees, paralyzed. The boar was lying on the ground. One accurate arrow had shot it dead, shot by Ren Fengyao! Another meddlesome person! Zi Yinye secretly rolled her eyes. You’re just a scholar, what are you shooting arrows for? Clearly a show off!
Ren Fengyao walked to Zi Yinye and slowly supported her up, saying gently, “Are you alright?”
The assassin had already been killed, so the situation had calmed down. Large drops of tears streamed from her eyes as she wailed, “I-I was so scared!”
Not matter what, she had to continue this farce until the bitter end!
The prince left to oversee the assassin situation while Ren Fengyao helped Zi Yinye up.
“Don’t be afraid, it’s over now.”
Zi Yinye allowed Ren Fengyao to support her by the arm. Only after some time did she gently push him away, then take a few steps back. “Husband*, I** have inconvenienced you.”
The two were already standing very close to the cliff. These few steps back brought Zi Yinye even closer to the edge. Wind blew, lifting her locks of hair, and her dress flapped gently, as if she was about to fly away.
“Come closer, there’s a cliff behind you!”
“Oh!” she replied quietly. Her pert mouth curved into a smile underneath the veil. Just when she took a few steps forward, an arrow, prepared long ago, shot straight at her. Before she had time to even cry out, she was forced back by the power of the arrow. Ren Fengyao froze for a moment, then reached out, but by then, it was already too late.
Zi Yinye had fallen off the cliff.
Cold wind blew up from the depths of the cliff, blowing away Zi Yinye’s white veil. As it drifted away, her beautiful face was smiling as it was exposed to Ren Fengyao’s eyes.
Ren Fengyao, his arm already outstretched, caught the blown away veil. He stood there at the cliff’s edge, dumbstruck, his mind blank. It was not that previously ugly face he had seen before but… Such an appearance was a true match for her lustrous eyes. That beautiful face was her true appearance! And she had a smile! Not a look of terror, but a smile! Ren Fengyao clenched his fist. He had been completely caught off guard, this was completely out of his expectations.
Leng Canxing had made his way over, only to see Zi Yinye fall off. Seeing Ren Fengyao shell-shocked at the cliff’s edge, Leng Canxing did not know what Ren Fengyao was thinking. He must be stricken with guilt!
Ren Fengyao turned around and commanded the imperial captain, “Order people to search along the Raging River. She must be brought back, dead or alive!” He clutched the white veil, then put it away.
Ren Fengyao’s voice was low with hints of seething anger. Leng Canxing paused. Was senior brother stirred by the seventh lady’s death? Leng Canxing could not help but say, “Senior brother, you…”
“Canxing, I need you to investigate something, investigate in detail!” Ren Fengyao instructed Leng Canxing quietly. Seeing Leng Canxing’s flabbergasted expression, a thoughtful smile appeared on his lips.
“Few people in this world have the capability to fool me!”
His words seemed to be directed at Leng Canxing, but also himself.