Jun Yixie never expected the poison vipers would turn against him! He’d expended plenty of effort to gather them here. In fact, there was no need for so many snakes to guard against Han Yunxi’s group sneaking in. He only amassed the bunch to show off his strength and give them a warning!
He wanted to tell them that Jun Yixie wasn’t an easy man to bully! Anyone who tried would pay a massive price. But in the end, he’d picked up a stone to smash his own foot. The countless archers he’d hidden in the second mountain couldn’t compare to his quantity of snakes! And no matter how lethal their arrows were, they couldn’t shoot all of the snakes to death. Any viper in the mountain was a common variety but also extremely venomous; a single bite from them would mean death within a short time. His archers were the second vanguard and his true line of defense; he’d planted them there as a critical counter to high-level experts like Long Feiye!
Jun Yixie rose somewhat unsteadily to his feet. His front lines had destroyed his second line of defense. If news of this spread, he’d become the greatest laughingstock in all of Cloud Realm Continent.
“Your Highness Duke of Kang, what’s wrong with those poison vipers? Isn’t there any way to stop them? If this goes on, we’ll lose our heads!” the guard reminded urgently.
“Prepare all defenses for Tiger’s Prison! Keep a close eye on Ning Cheng!” Jun Yixie instrcuted before rushing out into the woods. Within the forest, he could heard cries of alarm coming from all sides. The large swarms of slithering snakes vying to be the first were also apparent to his ears. Jun Yixie followed the cries of fear and saw a few dead archers, victims of poison. Two snakes crawled over their bodies as they hunted for other prey. As soon as Jun Yixie drew near, the snakes caught his scent and turned tails towards him.
Jun Yixie didn’t fear them. He stomped on one’s head while grabbing the other by its tail. When that snake moved to bite him, he smashed its body against the ground, instantly killing it. Picking up its body, he examined it carefully and discovered it had been poisoned. However, he couldn’t tell what kind of toxin it was. Moreover, all his years of study in poisons had never taught him any venom capable of turning any vipers so bloodthirsty and irascible.
Jun Yixie’s movements lured ten more snakes slithering his way. Some were thinner than his wrist while others were massive serpents. As they surrounded him, they stuck out their tongues in longing. In Jun Yixie’s eyes, there was no difference. The more he saw them, the angrier he grew. Finally, he pushed off against the ground and flew up, releasing multiple poison needles with his flight. Instantly, multiple snakes were poisoned to death. However, the largest snake let out an angry hiss and lashed at him with its tail. It saw Jun Yixie purely as prey, so he was forced to slay them. He flew sideways to avoid its attack, so angry that his complexion turned green. Although reluctant, he had no choice but to launch a vicious kick that smashed through the serpent’s skull.
After these snakes died, more came to replace them with even more crawling over in the background. Jun Yixie had no choice but to flee or else he’d waste Heaven knows how long just killing these snakes. Unable to find a solution, Jun Yixie issued orders to have all archers withdraw to the deepest parts of the gully. He led men to cut down the trees around Tiger’s Prison and scattered a ring of poison beyond it. Like so, the poison snakes had no choice but to crawl up the trees to get it, thus getting poisoned and rotting away until they died.
Han Yunxi’s group stood on top of the mountain surveying all below. Although they couldn’t see anything specific from so far away, the shrieks in the forests were obvious enough, as well as the movements of certain trees.
“Are they withdrawing their troops?” Tang Li asked doubtfully.
“Yes! They’ve cleared out of multiple paths. It should be the archers,” Long Feiye said coldly. He had laid out ambushes like these in woods before too, or encountered similar ambushes himself, so he was familiar with the patterns of movements.
“Sister-in-law, it really is a good show! Excellently done!” Tang Li was thrilled.
“Poison lass, you’re formidable!” Gu Qishao stuck up his thumb as he flattered. “What’s that poison called? Can you give Qi gege some?”
Han Yunxi generously gave him a bottle. “These snakes will run rampant for at least three days. We can rest tonight and keep watching the show tomorrow.”
Both Gu Beiyue and Long Feiye smiled at her words. Heaven knows how many archers Jun Yixie had hidden away, or the dangers they’d face charging in. They had even prepared for an all-out fight, but Jun Yixie had now given them a chance to rest. Night was supposed to be the best time for sneaking in, but tonight they could give the best hours to the snakes. Unless Jun Yixie had the same poisons as Han Yunxi in his hands, he would take more than a night to even slaughter the massive swarms of snakes.
In one night, the poisonous vipers killed their way through the attackers lying ambush and even made their way to Tiger’s Prison. Of course, if Jun Yixie wanted to leave and find them now, they wouldn’t object to inviting him for tea. As the skies gradually dimmed, Han Yunxi’s group couldn’t make out any more details from the gully below beyond patches upon patches of black. The woods were originally still, but grew even quieter at night. The slithering snakes in the darkness all seemed to be creeping deeper into the gully. Han Yunxi’s group sat in a row on rocks atop the peak. She and Long Feiye shared one rock with Gu Qishao and Tang Li flanking their respective sides. Gu Beiyue sat behind them. In some ways, he was a true shadow guard. As the third lunar month faded to the first day of the fourth lunar month, there was no moon in the sky. Without its lights, the stars in the skies glimmered especially bright.
The group stared at the skies and felt very close to the stars. It was as if they could pluck them right over their heads. Han Yunxi couldn’t resist reaching out a hand, but broke through the illusion as soon as she did. As it turned out, the skies were still very far away.
“Poison lass, do you want a star?” Gu Qishao grinned.
Han Yunxi didn’t answer. She assumed they’d start fighting nonstop as soon as they reached this mountain, but now everyone had a chance to go stargazing. She stared at them while slowly settling onto her back. Long Feiye joined her, his hand long waiting to pillow her head. Nestled in the crook of his arm, Han Yunxi only found it as a matter of course, having long grown used to it. She was about to answer Gu Qishao’s question when Tang Li asked, “Of course my sister-in-law does. Are you going to pluck one?”
“Heheh, it’ll have to be your big brother who does!” Gu Qishao modestly decline in a rare show of favor towards Long Feiye. He turned to the man and asked, “Will you?”
As soon as he spoke, a meteor streaked across the sky, startling everyone to sit up.
“Tang Li, quick! Make a wish!” Han Yunxi said urgently.
Tang Li was too clueless to react.
“If you make a wish upon a shooting star, it’ll definitely come true,” Han Yunxi said sincerely. She had no idea when she started believing in such things.
Immediately, Tang Li said out loud, “I hope Ning Jing and the baby will both be safe and sound!”
You’re not supposed to say your wishes out loud!
Han Yunxi wanted to correct him, but seeing Tang Li so serious and focused, she gave up. All this time, she failed to notice Long Feiye close his eyes momentarily while sitting by her side.
Very soon, all of them lay down again. The topic of plucking stars from the sky had petered out, while Gu Qishao was in no more mood to joke after hearing Tang Li’s wish. He pillowed his head on his arms and stared at the starscape until his thoughts began to wander.
“Gu Qishao, why aren’t you worried about Mu Linger?” Tang Li asked suddenly.
Gu Qishao gave a start before he said, “Haven’t I come to rescue her?”
That shut Tang Li up, but Gu Qishao had to admit that he would’ve forgotten about Mu Linger entirely without his reminder. Now he couldn’t help but recall her with some fondness. It seemed that ages had passed since anyone chased after him, searching for him all over the world and asking for his whereabouts. Gu Qishao closed his eyes and tried recall Mu Linger’s features, but only saw her crybaby face.
Mu Linger was probably the only person in the world to ever call him “Qi gege.”
Silence fell. The group lost themselves amongst the stars and their own thoughts. Tang Li couldn’t even keep track of the days since he saw Ning Jing last. At their last meeting at Myriad Merchant Hall, they’d even gotten into an argument. He thought of the first thing he said when he saw Ning Jing. What would she say first after she saw him?
Would she curse him?
Or ignore him?
Or have him hold their child?
Thinking of this, Tang Li’s lips curved into a sweet smile. Even if Ning Jing chose to beat or curse him, he’d still accept it happily.
The mountain winds fluttered past them as the stars twinkled above, making everyone drowsy. Gu Beiyue quietly guarded their backs, smiling faintly at the moonless skies. When the moon was out, the stars were scarce, but the brighter the moon, the lonelier it was. The vast sky full of lively stars had no room for the moon.
It was only when Gu Beiyue looked at the night skies tha he recalled his true name, Gu Yue. (孤月)
After some time had passed, Gu Beiyue suddenly cried out, “Princess, Your Highness, look below!”
Startled awake, everyone sat up and saw that Gu Beiyue was now standing by the cliff’s edge to stare down into the gully. What had happened there?
Han Yunxi and the rest rose to their feet and saw that the patch of darkness had suddenly given way to a section of lantern light!
“Is that Tiger’s Prison?” Tang Li cried in alarm.
“They must have cut down all the trees surrounding it, or else we’d never catch the lights!” Gu Qishao was pleasantly surprised.
Han Yunxi laughed. “Jun Yixie was trying to keep the vipers out!”
Long Feiye pinched his wrists and warmed up his limbs. He said coldly, “Prepare to descend intot he mountain!”
Since Jun Yixie had retreated to Tiger’s Prison, they wouldn’t give him a chance to catch his breath. Now they would show themselves outright at its front entrance!
Reading readers' comments and I'm surprised peeps are actually interested in my two cents while I'm fume-venting. XD Tell you what, I'll ramble in the translator's thoughts space here if I hjave anything to say and leave the chapters comment free for readers who prefer footnotes to be factual, not opinionated. I think that's a pretty good compromise.
Tonight I'll be having fun coding up the remnants of the prologue for the fan-game. I have no idea how much of "Chapter 1" content I'll manage to fit in before the April Fools deadline, but you can bet I'll do enough to make it tantalizing. We're going to head for a certain Venice-like city seen in the PGC-verse to swordhunt, among other things. >u>