She actually invited him in herself? Tang Li hid his joy to maintain a calm and airy disposition. Once again, he clasped his hands into a fist and remarked, “Since this is fate, this one shall accept it.”
“Come in,” the woman said warmly.
The driver couldn’t help but twitch his lips. Just then, this lad was talking about hitching a ride. When did it turn to talks of fate and destiny instead? He’s nothing but a sanctimonious swindler! But he didn’t dare speak out, because his mistress was a stubborn sort who only allowed speaking when he was questioned. In all other occasions, he was only to obey and had no right to speak up himself. The young Miss was a businesswoman and extremely shrewd, but had a weakness for scholarly, refined men, especially those cultivating in the Way. She’d end up acting foolish more or less whenever she ran into one.
Without a choice, the driver continued to lead the carriage on in silence. Tang Li sat inside as his heaving heart finally calmed. It was better hiding in here than running exposed in the wilds. Their ride was heading in the direction of Long Feiye’s courtyard, the exact opposite of his escape route. But they always said that the most dangerous place was also the safest one. Father and Aunt Ru would never guess that he would double back there so soon. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t notice the woman watching him indolently while resting her head in her chin with interest.
This man is both lean and handsome in his snow-white robes. His hair is long and black too. It makes him look like a living ink painting existing in his own little world. She had seen many men of his ilk, but she especially liked this one at first sight. Ever since becoming an adult, her elder brother had urged her many times to get married so they could gain support from joining two families together. But she’d found all sorts of excuses to refuse him. Now that her elder brother was in trouble, he was urging her even harder than before. If she could bring this man into her family instead, it might solve her matrimony problem. Shuangqing Mountain was a place to cultivate the Way, but it wasn’t very powerful. Still, it was a very influential peak with plenty of disciples scattered throughout Cloud Realm Continent.
“Gentleman Chang Li, are you going back to Shuangqing Mountain?” she asked.
Tang Li awoke from his thoughts and blurted out the first fib that came to his mind. “Exactly so. If we go along this path, we should reach it in about half a day.”
“Gentleman Chang Li, which master do you study under on Shuangqing Mountain?” she asked next.
Long Feiye’s courtyard rested right at the foot of that very peak, so Tang Li had found out a bit about its occupants. He answered, “This one is is the eldest disciple of Heavenly Profound Master from Shuangqing Mountain’s Green Cloud Pavilion.”
The woman was thrilled at the revelation. There were three major pavilions atop Shuangqing Mountain, but Green Cloud Pavilion headed them all. The Heavenly Profound Master also the most repute and influence amongst the sect. Any of his disciples would be an important personage as well. She nodded in satisfaction and waited for Tang Li to ask after her name and status too. But he never did and ended up closing his eyes instead to sit there quietly. His hands folded themselves over his dantian as if he was sitting in silent meditation. If Han Yunxi was here to see this now, she would be convinced that he’d been poisoned mute instead! The woman only loved him more after the sight. She wondered whether she should follow Gentleman Chang Li up the mountain and meet directly with the Heavenly Profound Master to discuss taking his disciple into her household as a husband.
She figured she’d settle all the details first before going back to tell her big brother. Hopefully she could “cook the rice” too, so her brother would have nothing else to say even if he got angry. Otherwise, he’d probably find her a household with just as much power and influence as their own. It would be impossible for her to take in a son-in-law then, only marry into the family instead. Then she’d have far less freedom than before.
Thinking up to here, she looked at the satisfactory gentleman by her side and silently vowed to tie up her marriage affairs within the next few days! As long as he’s my type, I’m willing to spend time cultivating our feelings together after the wedding.
While the carriage trundled on, Tang Li was still alert to any disturbances around them in case the Tang Clan came calling. He had no idea that the woman by his side was an extraordinary personage, nor that the carriage had forsaken the main roads for the small side paths instead. Thus, there were no more chances for him to run into the Tang Clan again. At this point in time, even Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had joined in the hunt.
Tang Li was no fool, so he knew this woman had to come from impressive means. That’s why he chose to keep quiet---lying would only get more complicated if he talked too much. Half a day was still a long time. Tang Li secretly peeked at the woman a few times, but she was only dozing on her high pillow every time. Despite dressing up as a man, she seemed more like a noble queen, her brows filled with arrogance and pride.
Anyone who marries this woman is doomed to a life of misery! Tang Li secretly thought to himself.
Abruptly, the woman opened her eyes, took out a clean handkerchief from one of the boxes inside the carriage, and approached Tang Li. Despite her masculine dress, there was a certain grace to her indolent movements as she drew closer. Tang Li snuck another peek before remaining as he was in quiet “meditation.” But the woman actually rested a hand on his shoulder while patting his face with the handkerchief. He sniffed a faint fragrance from the cloth and panicked, opening his eyes as he drew back. Once he was sure the scent didn’t have any ill effects, he put on an expression of alarm and said, “Miss…”
The woman burst into laughter. “Gentleman, what are you afraid of? I only saw you sweating while meditating, so I wanted to help wipe off your sweat.” She gently moved to aid him again, but Tang Li quicked repulsed her.
“Ma...many….many thanks to Miss, but this one can do it myself.”
The woman didn’t force the issue and handed the handkerchief to Tang Li before withdrawing to her seat. He wiped off his sweat, looking every inch the shy and tender young man while harboring a heart full of resentment. As the eldest young master of the Tang Clan, I have no lack of women. I hate those types who throw themselves at me the most.
He didn’t even think much of the handkerchief in his hands and returned it after a few wipes. But he had no idea that the fragrance in the cloth, when mixed with sweat, could produce an extremely strong aphrodisiac that was absorbed through the skin within a short amount of time. Once he finished, the two of them resumed their places without a word.
As time drew on, the carriage slowed to a stop. Tang Li and the woman opened their eyes at the same time. Both of them had been feigning sleep.
“We’re here,” the woman smiled.
“Many thanks to young Miss. This one will take his leave now. If fate allows...may we meet again.” As soon as Tang Li finished, he stepped off the carriage. The woman didn’t stop him, but he saw that something was wrong as soon as he got off. This was the southern end of Shuangqing Mountain! If they had gone by the normal paths, they should have ended up at the north!
“You changed roads?” he asked the driver.
“Gentleman, you wanted to return to Shuangqing Mountain. You can go up from this side as well.” The driver didn’t want to waste words with him. He knew that the young Miss had avoided Yaoshui Perfecture secretly to head for Fenglin Prefecture beyond. Neither their itinerary nor identities could be exposed, so how could they take any main roads?
Tang Li felt even more strongly that these two people weren’t ordinary folk. But he was too lazy to care about details. As long as he climbed over this mountain, he’d reached Long Feiye’s side courtyard. By now his father and Aunt Ru should have stopped sending people to search over there. When he saw the woman descend from the carriage, he smiled slight and bid her polite farewell with his hands clasped. “Many thanks. This one shall take his leave.”
The woman bowed back graciously, every inch as elegant and graceful as him. Just like that, Tang Li headed up the mountain while the woman climbed back onto her carriage and continued around the base. But soon enough, she jumped off the carriage to secretly follow him up. The forests of the peak began to grow dim with the setting sun.
Tang Li was in a good mood, so his steps were light. As he traveled through the trees, he even hummed a small tune. But a large net abruptly fell on top of his head, alarming him greatly. He didn’t struggle, because he was clear from the make of this trap that it was made by none other than the Tang Clan. As long as he didn’t fight it, there was still a chance to escape its confines. Otherwise, he’d be irreversibly trapped.
He calmly darted back and forth until he managed to free himself, but a new net greeted him right at the exit. Before Tang Li could react, a figure flew in from the side and harshly struck him aside. Tang Li rolled on the ground a few times before he stopped. The force of the blow had been immense. When he gained his bearings again, he saw that it was the woman from the carriage who had saved him.
Didn’t she leave already? Did she end up following me instead?
“Still not leaving? Someone’s been following you. They’re from the Tang Clan--do they want to kill you?” the woman asked as she hauled him by the arm with enough force to break his limbs.
At the same time, countless experts flew out from the woods, dressed in black. They didn’t have any weapons on them, but Tang Li was certain their bodies concealed the most powerful assassination tools in the world--hidden weapons of the Tang Clan!
Dammit! I ran so far but they’ve still caught me here!
Tang Li knew that the best choice now was to push out the woman as a human shield to buy himself time to escape. The Tang Clan men weren’t here to kill or hurt, but capture him. At most, she’d only be a little injured if he sacrificed her. Thinking up to here, Tang Li was about to act when the woman cried out, “Watch out!”
A single hidden weapon flew in between them! Tang Li immediately changed his idea and grabbed the woman by the hand. “Let’s go!”
Since more and more weapons were flying their way, he simply shielded the woman in his arms and ran for it while protecting her. He used all of his strength to escape and make sure she was unharmed. By the time they stopping running, it was already dark. Tang Li found a cave and set her down before leaning against the wall with heaving breaths.
In the dark, the woman stared at his extremely attractive profile. She never knew this ordinary-looking gentleman had such exceptional martial arts, much less that he’d be so manly in her presence. Dazzled by the sight, her schemes flew out of her head as she simply stared at him and smiled. Meanwhile, Tang Li wasn’t paying her any attention because he felt something distinctly wrong with his body right now...