As soon as Long Feiye tugged on Chu Xifeng’s arm, Chu Xifeng stiffened all over.
“Relax!” Han Yunxi said.
But Chu Xifeng couldn’t relax at all. Sensing his tension, Long Feiye stood up and said coldly to Xu Donglin, “Xu Donglin, go lend a hand!”
Xu Donglin’s eyes were red-rimmed, but he listened to his chief’s orders and didn’t cry. Still, teardrops kept brimming at the corners of his eyes. Besides acting on his own and being disrespectful to the princess, ol’ Chief Chu had always been someone he admired and respected. In fact, he’d started seeing the man as his older brother a long time ago. He was even secretly happy that he was accompanying his masters to the mountain peak this time, because then he’d definitely see Chief Chu again. He had been trying to figure out a way to get him to apologize to the princess and beg her for forgiveness.
As long as the princess forgave him, then His Highness wouldn’t object anymore. In the future, Chief Chu would still be one of the shadow guards. Even without his martial arts, he knew more than any of them after following after His Highness for so long. Chief Chu could still lead them like before.
But who knew he’d be so injured?
Han Yunxi carefully examined Chu Xifeng before declaring, “Both of his legs are crippled and he has comminuted fractures in the lower legs. It’s been too long since they’ve been treated, so we’ll need to ask Gu Beiyue if there’s any chance to save them.”
Chu Xifeng laid without daring to open his eyes, much less consider the possibilities. But he still couldn’t help asking himself, has the princess forgiven me?
He always knew he was wrong, especially since acting on his own was the greatest taboo for a shadow guard. But he had never regretted his choice because he couldn’t discard his ancestors’ hatred and resentment. It wasn’t until...until Xu Donglin wrote to tell him the truth of the Great Qin Empire’s fall that he realized all the hatred stemmed from a mutual misunderstanding. He realized then that the princess was an innocent too and accepted His Highness’s exceptions towards her. However, now his mistake had turned completely inexcusable.
After finding out the truth, he never wrote to Xu Donglin again. He thought it over for a while and even entertained the thought of going off the mountain a few times, just to seek out the princess to apologize. More than anyone else, he knew that His Highness would agree to anything the princess accepted.
But he didn’t.
Day after day, he stayed at the mountain peak because he was no more than a useless man now. How could someone without his martial arts qualify as a shadow guard? He would need help just to get off the mountain. It wasn’t until Celestial Mountain Sword Sect’s three major faction heads and disciples rebelled to help Heretical Sword Sect launch a takeover that he realized he should do something for His Highness.
The three factions claimed control over the shadow guards’ training grounds first before leading Heretical Sword Sect up to the peak. He wasn’t there at the time and managed to escape; furthermore, no one thought to worry about a missing cripple. That was how he laid low until the snows and ice covered the paths, then slipped and slid all the way down the western flank.
Han Yunxi rapped against Chu Xifeng’s hand and asked, “Does it hurt?”
Chu Xifeng’s eyes flew open just in time to meet Han Yunxi’s. Subconsciously, he looked away.
“Does it hurt?” Han Yunxi asked again.
“It doesn’t hurt!” Chu Xifeng replied.
Han Yunxi hit his hand harder. “How about this?”
“No feeling. When I came down the mountain, my right hand hit a rock and broke its bones. I reattached it myself, but I don’t think I did it right,” Chu Xifeng admitted.
Han Yunxi creased her brows, but didn’t say a word. She checked his other hand and found that it was, at least, still alright. After looking over the key parts of his skeleton, Han Yunxi began to inspect Chu Xifeng’s abdomen for internal injuries. She’d barely touched him when Chu Xifeng cried out in agony.
How could a martial artist be so sensitive to pain, unless it was truly insufferable?
Han Yunxi creased her brows even further while Xu Donglin’s eyes grew more red-rimmed. Long Feiye stood on one side, his cold face turning frostier by the second. Whether it was Bai Yanqing, Heretical Sword Sect, or the three factions causing unrest, he wouldn’t spare a single one!
By the end of her examination, even Han Yunxi found it unbearable. She couldn’t began to imagine how much suffering Chu Xifeng had endured, including starvation, until they arrived. Not daring to delay, she said, “Long Feiye, he needs warm liquids and hot food. Also, arrange for a carriage here to deliver him to Gu Beiyue right away. Otherwise...I don’t know if we’ll be able to preserve his life.”
Chu Xifeng looked alert and vigorous, but his internal injuries were severe. Han Yunxi wasn’t versed in treating those kinds of wounds so her only choice was to get Chu Xifeng to professional care under safe circumstances.
“Chief…” Xu Donglin finally broke as tears streamed down his face.
Seeing this, Chu Xifeng immediately scolded, “Damned brat, how many times have I told you--”
“Xu Donglin, write a letter to Gu Beiyue,” Long Feiye interrupted. “Have him get here quickly and leave Tang Li to oversee matters at Three-Way Black Market.”
Compared to sending Chu Xifeng back, it was faster to have Gu Beiyue head for them instead. Moreover, they were going to need more help at Celestial Mountain.
“Master, this subordinate is fine. This subordinate--”
“You still think you’re fine after all that? Do you want to die?!” This time it was Han Yunxi who interrupted. “Fine, then before you die, clear your accounts with this princess first!”
Chu Xifeng froze at her words, unsure of how to reply. Han Yunxi shot him a glare, looking remarkably similar to a person demanding debts to be paid. Chu Xifeng fell silent before attempting to rise.
“What are you doing?” Long Feiye asked unhappily.
“Your Highness, this subordinate acted on my own and disrespected the princess. This subordinate...this subordinate will pay it back to the princess,” Chu Xifeng said seriously with head bowed.
Han Yunxi ached at the sight. Where was “right” or “wrong” in times like this? If she really looked into it, had Chu Xifeng really made a mistake? At most, he was remembering the grudges of his ancestors. What kind of person would humble or degrade themselves before their supposed enemy?
“Lie down!” Han Yunxi barked roughly.
From her pocket, she drew out a dan pellet and said, “Here, this is a poison pill. Once you eat it, you’ll suffer the pain of being gnawed on by ten thousand ants for two hours. If you swallow it now, I’ll forgive you and we’ll forget the past ever happened. You can be by His Highness’s side as a subordinate just like before and take occasional orders from me, too. How’s that sound?”
Besides Chu Xifeng, everyone else could recognize the dan pellet for its worth. Xu Donglin was so agitated that he stopped crying to stare anxiously at Chu Xifeng, afraid that he’d refuse. Baili Mingxiang was tense as well.
Chu Xifeng stared at the pill and didn’t move.
Long Feiye looked back at him, joining the circle of waiting people. Meanwhile, Gu Qishao had always harbored a bad impression of Chu Xifeng because the damned brat was ever blocking his visits into the Duke of Qin’s estate with his giant team of shadow guards. If not for his merits in reporting on the situation, Gu Qishao would already want him dead! By now he had gone inside the cave to wait.
Outside, Chu Xifeng still didn’t move to take the pill. His actions made Han Yunxi a little disappoint, but the next second Chu Xifeng was shooting Long Feiye a timid look.
In a low voice, he asked, “Will..His Highness forgive me too?”
Han Yunxi couldn’t help grinning at his question. Ever since that incident, Chu Xifeng had grown arrogantly self-important and stopped acting familiar with her. But now she knew he was still the same old fellow as always.
She spoke up in Long Feiye’s place and declared, “Of course!”
Long Feiye heard her as well and tacitly acknowledged it while standing lofty and silent.
“Alright, then I’ll take it!” Chu Xifeng popped the pill into his mouth and quickly swallowed it down.
Everyone stared at him without a word. Neither did he speak, but laid flat to stare at the skies. Abruptly, he exhaled in relief. He had been worried about dying an obscure death while coming down the mountain, but now he had no regrets even if the poison killed him. As he quietly waited for the toxin to take effect and wreathed him in the pain of ten thousand ant bits, the rest of the group circled around him to await the effects of the Returning Dragon Pill.
That’s right. Han Yunxi hadn’t given him any poison at all, but the other Returning Dragon Pill that they had nearly lost their lives to refine. Only two had been made and one given to Gu Beiyue, making this the final pill. If Chu Xifeng knew of its origins, how would he feel? Would he still try to figure out the right and wrong of things? Or wonder if the princess had really forgiven him?
Gradually, he felt a warm current flow from his dantian like a stream of true qi rising up from his abdomen to circulate throughout his meridians. As it spread through his body, Chu Xifeng felt the ice cold pain of his injuries wrapped up in a layer of warmth, almost as if he was being born anew. Stunned, he wondered, what’s going on?
He looked towards Han Yunxi, who had already risen to her feet to remark, “This isn’t poison, but the Returning Dragon Pill! Chu Xifeng, remember this: you’ll always owe me one, so serve us well in the future!”
Then she turned and headed into the caves. She wanted to find a way to cook up something hot since they were going to wait for Gu Beiyue. It was best to get Chu Xifeng’s health up to speed. Long Feiye followed her inside, leaving Xu Donglin and Chu Xifeng outside. With their masters gone, Xu Donglin threw himself on Chu Xifeng’s body and burst into tears.
“Chief Chu, you scared me to death! Sobsob...you can finally come back!”
Chu Xifeng stared at the skies in a daze. Returning Dragon Pill? Did I hear that right?
“Chief Chu, His Highness and her nearly lost their lives to get the Returning Dragon Pill! Princess definitely treats you well, so don’t haggle over those things in the past, okay?” In front of Chu Xifeng, Xu Donglin was forever like a child.
Very soon, Long Feiye’s orders drifted out from the cave. “Why aren’t you bringing him inside yet?”
This was the base of Celestial Mountain. Although their location was hidden, it was still better to take precautions! Since Bai Yanqing didn’t know they were here, they should plan things well. They would wipe out his forces, save Jianxin and the three Honored Elders, then take back Celestial Mountain anew!
1. Reminders for readers who forgot: Chu Xifeng locked her up in a house on his own initiative after discovering she was the hated West Qin princess. This indirectly allowed Ning Cheng to kidnap her from right under their noses and made LFY disable his martial arts and banish him to Celestial Mountain in a fit of fury.
Welcome back, Chu Xifeng. Welcome back!
And hey, looks like Dr. Gu will be part of the action after all! We really need to see more of his super-speed shadow skills in action *rubs hands*