A carriage stood parked in the quiet mountain woods. Ordinary passerby might notice its spacious size, but experts would recognize its unique properties. This was a carriage designed to be pulled by four horses, but that kind of design was reminescent of the emperors of old. It wasn’t just anyone who could use such special specifications.
The body of the carriage was made from rare and precious nanmu wood, which possessed natural golden threads that were mesmerizing to the eye. It gave the ride a aura of wealth as well as spirit. Even the best collectors of nanmu could be hard pressed to produce such a carriage with an even distribution of the threads, yet this one had succeeded with much larger than the usual proportions.
There were no obvious signs of master craftsmanship or paintings on the carriage, nor obvious seals and insignias; instead the walls were paneled in simple vertical strips of interesting patterns that made it lively all the same. Beautiful curtains of golden silk framed its four-way openings and perfectly hid the interior, giving it a mysterious air. One couldn’t help but be tempted to peek inside.
Its four wheels were round and thick to minimize jolting on the road. Because the carriage was so wide, it could easily fit four to five people without feeling cramped. Like the simply exterior, the inside was clean and sparse as well. However, its style utterly differed towards the heights of rage-inducing luxury instead! Inside was a warm and spacious long couch that doubled as a bed, covered with a rare and exotic fox-fur rug. It was the perfect place to sit, sprawl, or lie down, bordered on its ends by a pair of high, golden-thread pillows. The center was adorned with another nanmu wood table, square in shape and decorated with tea things.
Below the couch was a bronze stove for heating. It had exquisite shape and workmanship. By some miracle, it didn’t give off any smoke when it burned through its fuel, much less ash. The floor was covered in none other than a whole tiger skin rug, luxurious and utterly extravagant!
This was the sole property of His Highness Duke of Qin. Countless women had dreamed of coming to a place like this--if only for a single peek!--much less, to sit. Right now, Han Yunxi was currently sitting inside and...fuming!
She was sitting on the right side of the couch, leaning against one of the high pillows with her eyes staring at her feet. Her unhappiness was written all over her face, a warning for everyone to keep away. Long Feiye was sitting on the left side, watching her silently with creased brows. His dark, pitch-black eyes seemed to carry a trace of helplessness mixed with doting as he wavered between laughter, worry, and irritation. In any case, he was completely at a loss for what to do.
Nothing in the world had ever posed a challenge to him. He always had ways to solve his problems, but he was always lost when it came to her. Compared to crying, he was more afraid that she’d resort to quiet sulking to express her anger instead.
And indeed, Han Yunxi was angry.
She didn’t even want to ask him whether he’d save the girl. After all, just yesterday he’d agreed to be responsible for no one but her from now on. If he took half a step to rescue Duanmu Yao today, she didn’t mind poisoning all his limbs numb and throwing him into a crock of vinegar to soak for three days and three nights!
Then he’d know the true meaning of “eating vinegar!”
Fortunately, Long Feiye avoided the subject entirely to asked, “Shall we, return to Yaoshui?”
“How are you going to explain yourself to your master?” Han Yunxi asked calmly.
That...was a big problem.
“We can go back first and talk about it later.”
Long Feiye didn’t have to spare another thought for Duanmu Yao, but he did have to take his master into consideration.
“Where’s the letter?” Han Yunxi asked.
Long Feiye obediently handed her the paper, which Han Yunxi straightened out before she called for Chu Xifeng. In a cold voice she said, “The recipient was never found, so return it to the sender! If they come looking for him again, just refuse them!”
Chu Xifeng almost burst into laughter as he listened from outside the carriage. Esteemed wangfei could certainly think up good schemes! It was true that sometimes flying hawk messages missed their mark. Since the birds couldn’t tattle, who would know the truth if they send the letter back again? It’d be assumed that the message never reached its mark.
In any case, the sword sect master had rarely communicated with His Highness at all over the past few years. It was more than normal for a flying hawk message to fail a few times in the passing.
Inside the carriage, Long Feiye’s lips quirked up into a beautiful radian. He looked at Han Yunxi until he couldn’t resist smoothing out a few strands of her hair again. He admired her for her intelligence as much as he loved her little clever ways.
But this time, Han Yunxi slapped his hand away as soon as he reached out. Instead of speaking to him, she only asked Chu Xifeng, “Why aren’t you leaving yet?”
Chu Xifeng had long gotten the letter in hand, but he had to wait for His Highness to give the final word. Esteemed wangfei might be able to stand in for other matters, but Celestial Mountain affairs were a special case. He still had to defer to His Highness’s final decision.
“What are you spacing out for?” Long Feiye spoke up.
Chu Xifeng gladly endured being scolded twice by his masters before he declared, “Yes, this subordinate will go right away!”
He had followed His Highness Duke of Qin long enough to understand exactly what kind of woman Duanmu Yao was. He’d rather his master cut ties with that woman as soon as possible.
Once he was gone, the two people in the carriage fell silent again. Long Feiye never stopped looking at Han Yunxi, as if waiting for something. But after a while, all she did was murmur, “Let’s go back.”
Long Feiye only felt a flash of surprise. He made as if to speak, then stopped. After a long moment of silence with still no questions forthcoming from her side, he replied with a simple ‘Mm,’ and called back their driver. This time, Han Yunxi looked up to catch his long face as he stared out the window. She knitted her brows and made to speak, but the words died on her lips. In the end, she ended up staring out her window as well.
When enough time had passed, Long Feiye stole a glance back and saw her looking aloof and indifferent. His forehead creased in response before he lowered his gaze to start soundlessly brewing tea. If this was before, he would’ve offered her the first cup; as things stood, he poured himself a cup to drink instead.
The wheels of the carriage trundled over the road, disturbing the peacefulness of the forest while highlighting the dead stillness within. Long Feiye leaned against the tea table as he drank his cup expressionlessly, while Han Yunxi nestled next to the window, far away from him. Like this, the pair passed through the morning without exchanging a single word.
The atmosphere inside the carriage was so oppressive that it was getting hard to breathe. Even the driver sitting outside could sense the pressure emanating from within. He drove their ride carefully, afraid that a single minor mistake would turn him into His Highness Duke of Qin’s punching bag. The carriage reached the county seat by noon.
The lively noises outside made the inside even more quiet, making anyone feel uneasy. Finally, the driver couldn’t take it anymore and asked in a low voice, “Your Highness, shall I arrange for lunch?”
His Highness Duke of Qin could never bear to see his wangfei go hungry, nor had he ever let her starve when they went out together on long journeys. Just what monumental event had happened to make His Highness forget about something as important as mealtime?
“What would you like to eat?” Long Feiye asked faintly.
“Doesn’t matter,” Han Yunxi replied.
Long Feiye stopped asking and told the driver, “Find a place that’s clean.”
After that, the pair resumed their silence.
Soon enough, the driver found the most expensive restaurant in town and reserved a closed room. “Your Highness, it’s all been arranged. It’s the first room on the right on the second floor. The waiter is already waiting to serve you both.”
Long Feiye rose to get off, and that’s when Han Yunxi finally rested her gaze on his form. She must have been provoking him on purpose, because she didn’t move to speak until after he got off.
On any other day, he would have replied with a ‘Mm,’ before drawing apart the curtains and carrying her off. But today he simply asked, “What is it?”
Seeing this, the driver wasn’t sure whether he should move to assist her himself. It was His Highness Duke of Qin who took over his original duties, so should he as the driver be rushing to grab the steps next? While he was still hesitating, Han Yunxi actually lost her temper.
“Aren’t you planning to explain anything to me? You, get back on the carriage!”
The driver’s face turned sick with fear at her words--not because of her outburst, but because someone had dared to scold His Highness Duke of Qin. No no, this isn’t just a scolding. She’s even ordering him about!
But the driver only saw Long Feiye smile as he stood outside, his icy face all but forgotten in his...secret laughter! The driver couldn’t help but check to see whether the sun had risen from the west today. Just what was wrong with His Highness Duke of Qin? He might dote on this woman, but that doesn’t mean he’d laugh when he’s being rebuked.
When he saw the Duke of Qin quickly get on the carriage again, he couldn’t help but shake his head. Outsiders can’t began to understand the world of His Highness and esteemed wangfei… Once again, he went off for a walk “far away,” this time of his own accord.
Long Feiye had long withdrawn his smile before getting on the carriage. “What do I have to explain?” he asked.
It would’ve been better if he hadn’t said anything at all. At these words, Han Yunxi all but exploded.
“What do you have to explain?” she was incredulous. “So you thought there was no need to explain at all?”
She had fumed and showed her dissatisfaction for so long without a single peep from the man. Does this mean he won’t tell me a thing unless I ask, just like in the past? Do I have to be the one to push him until he talks?
“Why should you?” Han Yunxi grew unwell all over.
Now Long Feiye was truly lost. “What…’why should I?’”
“Why should you master tell you to take care of her? Who’s she to you? Isn’t she already 18? Your master should know that as well, right?” Han Yunxi asked, word for word. “Why should he order you about? Do you owe her anything? Are you her father or brother or husband?”
Long Feiye didn’t like these words, but he didn’t try to explain himself. Instead, Han Yunxi took the chance to keep questioning him in a huff. “Or did you take care of her like this in past? So you’re used to it already?”
This wasn’t just anger, but flat out wrath! Explosive rage!
She wasn’t jealous of Duanmu Yao at all--she was angry that the sword sect master was ordering Long Feiye about to wait on the girl!
Why should he have to at all?! And to put even three ‘musts’ in the letter like an absolute order! What’s with all that?!
What does the sword sect master take such a proud and lofty man like Long Feiye to be?
Long Feiye knew she was mad, but he never thought she’d be this mad--and towards his master, no less. He looked at her in amusement and suddenly discovered that she was even prettier than before when she lost her temper.
“Answer me!” Han Yunxi demanded.
“Han Yunxi, I thought you’d drop the subject,” he said with a smile.
“Who’s dropping what with you? You’re thinking too much!” Han Yunxi was too angry to notice how happy Long Feiye looked, or realize how much he cared that she did, too.
“Answer me!” her voice was fierce. “What’s your master playing at?”
“He doesn’t know your lordship has you now. After awhile, I’ll take you to Celestial Mountain to meet him,” Long Feiye said simply.
Han Yunxi knocked aside the hand reaching out for her and exclaimed, “So he wants to play matchmaker between you and Duanmu Yao? Did he call you like this in the past, too?”