That stranger was standing right next to Baili Mingxiang and looked like a young fellow. His features were exquisitely fine and his build short and thin. It was impossible to tell his age, but he looked about as old as Xu Donglin.
“Your Highness, that’s…” Baili Yuanlong lowered his voice.
“Her,” Long Feiye was very blunt.
Baili Yuanlong had a fright. He walked closer and scrutinized the figure before recognizing those features. He never expected Han Yunxi’s crossdressing to fool everyone, even himself.
It had to be said that her feminine looks were lovely, but her masculine looks were refreshing and handsome. Both versions of her were eye-catching. Although she was disguised as a guard now and keeping a low profile, her aura was unmistakable.
“Your Highness, the banquet today is still my army’s--”
“If the old fox uses poison, could you stop him?” Long Feiye asked coldly.
That problem directly shut Baili Yuanlong up! They had no idea who the old fox was before, but now that they knew he was from the Wind and Poison Clans, no number of Long Feiye’s forces would be able to deal with Bai Yanqing’s poison!
Aside from Han Yunxi, who else in the world could deal with his poison arts?
Long Feiye cast a side glance at Baili Yuanlong and waited for him to object, but the general ended up soundlessly dropping his head. Han Yunxi watched them come close and thought of the two black books again. The tips of her ears instantly reddened. Soon enough, Baili Yuanlong settled to sit on Baili Mingxiang’s right without sparing a glance for Han Yunxi. She had no idea that Long Feiye had silenced him with one sentence, and only assumed the general was still refusing to look at her because of his disdain for the black book.
She looked resentfully at Long Feiye, only to catch him secretly smiling at her. Her look immediately morphed into a glare while he simply kept walking towards her. It was such a familiar sensation that Han Yunxi almost forgot her place and went to meet him. But soon enough, Long Feiye turned to sit down, reminding Han Yunxi of her current identity and their circumstances. He had taken the place left of Baili Mingxiang, which was directly in front of Han Yunxi’s seat. Han Yunxi had been worried that Long Feiye and Baili Yuanlong would have a falling out, but then a shadow guard had told her that Long Feiye wanted her to participate in tonight’s bonfire banquet. However, she was to disguise herself as a male guard so as to not expose her identity, because it was very possible there’d be an assassination attempt tonight. Long Feiye had already prepared everything and was waiting for the attacker to make their move.
On no grounds could Bai Yanqing find out that she was with Long Feiye; otherwise, all of his plans would be for naught. Han Yunxi only felt bewildered. These were the main barracks in the middle of the army. If a spy mixed in amongst their ranks, then Baili Yuanlong was too inferior! How could an assassin sneak all the way here? The only possibility was that their foe had unparalleled martial arts skills.
Long Feiye sat down as Han Yunxi murmured, “Is the old fox coming personally?”
“Uncertain. Wait and watch the show,” Long Feiye muttered back.
Actually, Han Yunxi had a few more questions to ask, but it wasn’t convenient with Baili Mingxiang and Baili Yuanlong present. Moreover, a “guard” like herself couldn’t draw too close, so she could only endure for now. The bonfire burned as dishes were brought to the tables with the wine. Baili Yuanlong first offered Long Feiye a toast before all of the soldiers rose to do the same. Gradually, the scene grew lively. However, such excitement was only reserved for seated soldiers. Standing behind Long Feiye as his “guard,” Han Yunxi couldn’t do or ask anything. She couldn’t even reach the wine or food from here and felt extremely bored. She only hoped that Long Feiye’s good show would hurry onstage!
Besides Han Yunxi, the only other girl on the scene was Baili Mingxiang. Unlike her, she was the only seated female and was placed right next to Long Feiye. Qin Wangfei was already a topic of unbearable recall for His Highness. Most of the soldiers were ignorant to the truth, so they had started making guesses after seeing Baili Mingxiang by His Highness’s side all these days. Moreover, most of the ones in the crowd were members of the Mermaid Clan, so it would be their greatest honor if Baili Mingxiang could earn His Highness’s favor, become a consort, and then possibly a consort who could bear heirs for the imperial line!
“Miss Mingxiang, you’re the only one who hasn’t toasted His Highness yet. Hehe, aren’t you afraid that His Highness will penalize you?” Deputy General Xie asked with an ambiguous air.
Baili Mingxiang wasn’t a daughter of a rich and powerful family for another. Calm and sedate, she replied, “Mingxiang is a woman, so how could I toast His Highness like the other soldiers? Mingxiang is petrified at the very thought.”
Her words elevated those present to soaring heights while debasing herself. But it was both appropriate and mindful of etiquette. Hearing this, everyone present felt pleased in their hearts at the words. Those who wanted to cause trouble for her would naturally give up here, but nobody was in that frame of mind. Instead, they wanted to pair her up!
Deputy General Zhao smiled and said, “Miss Mingxiang has been attending on His Highness left and right. How could your contributions go unnoticed? How could the likes of us compare in turn? Naturally, your toast isn’t on the same level as us! Haha, go and toast His Highness separately.”
Cries of assent rose at his words.
“Miss Mingxiang, this is His Highness’s first time at an army banquet, and he’s only brought you. It won’t be interesting if you don’t express yourself!”
“Haha, Miss Mingxiang, it can’t be that our Bai Clan girls can’t even handle alcohol?”
“General Baili , Miss Mingxiang isn’t really going to join the army, right? Even if you could bear to part with her, His Highness wouldn’t.”
Everyone was joking happily, but Baili Mingxiang couldn’t take it anymore. She quickly lifted her cup of wine and said, “Your Highness, Mingxiang toasts a cup to you. On this night of Qiqiao, Mingxiang wishes for nothing more than You Highness’s good health!”
It wasn’t convenient to make explanations here, nor did they come easy. Her true reason for remaining by his side wasn’t meant to be known by the majority. She could only drink her wine quickly to quell the chatty uncles. Otherwise, she didn’t dare to imagine what the “guard” behind her would think of all this.
Faced with Baili Mingxiang’s toast, Long Feiye only nodded his head, but didn’t return the gesture. Baili Mingxiang long expected this. His Highness preferred tea over wine. Unless it was a special circumstance, even someone in her father’s position would find it difficult to coax His Highness to drink. Moreover, His Highness would never drink with women.
Baili Mingxiang raised her cup and drained it dry alone, her bright and clever heart having long seen through everything. Still...still, this fragrant and rich wine only tasted bitter and astringent on her tongue, making it hard to swallow. She couldn’t help but turn towards Han Yunxi, only to see that the woman didn’t mind at all. Instead, she was currently playing with her sword.
Long Feiye had glanced back twice himself already. When he saw that Han Yunxi didn’t care, his knitted brows relaxed. He stopped looking back and hid his unhappiness within his gaze.
After three rounds of drinks, a boisterous drumbeat sounded from afar. Everyone looked towards the noise to see a group of gorgeously dressed women come singing and dancing onto the scene, guided by a few soldiers. Such performances were put on in the military at set intervals as a way to send best wishes to the soldiers. On Qiqiao night’s bonfire banquet, they were an expected appearance. However, the dancers tonight were different from the usual. Their clothing exposed their skin, while their gazes were seductive and alluring. Han Yunxi took a look and only felt these women were daringly dressed. Although they had long skirts, slits in the sides exposed their snow-white thighs at intermittent moments, making for a captivating sight. She grew puzzled: who arranged for these dancers?
The dancers stopped in the center of the clearing and all knelt in greeting to Long Feiye. The only exception was the most beautiful one, who bent over far enough to expose the charming depths of her shirt. Next to Baili Yuanlong, Senior Provincial Official Luo hastily rose to his feet.
“Your Highness, this is the most reputed dance company from the Luo River, the Goddess Luo Dance Troupe. They specially prepared a song for Your Highness’s amusement called 'Stepping Song' (踏歌), may Your Highness enjoy the show.”
So it was a dance troupe. They weren’t just famous in the Luo River region, but all of Cloud Realm Continent. Han Yunxi had heard of them before, but this was her first time seeing them in person. Long Feiye’s army was stationed right in the Luo River region. The original land belonged to Tianning Country, but after the East Qin troops moved in, Senior Provincial Official Luo surrendered.
“Stepping Song” wasn’t simply the title of the performance, but a name for a whole genre of dance. Han Yunxi was just feeling bored, so now she decided to enjoy the show rather than sitting around like a fool. Long Feiye darted a glance at Baili Yuanlong without a word before raising his hand to signal the dancers to start. Senior Provincial Official Luo was thrilled. He rose from his bow and clapped three times towards the dancers.
“To display your skills for His Highness is your fortune cultivated from three lifetimes! Put on a good show!”
All of the dancers nodded. As the strains of music rose with drumbeats, they began to rise and move their bodies, dancing and singing with the melody.
It wasn’t just anyone who could perform “Stepping Steps.” Basic fundamentals included restraining one’s shoulders, tucking in the chin, hiding one’s arms, swaying one’s back, loosening the knees, turning one’s waist, and bending from the hips as needed. These really were dancers who deserved their reputation, their graceful forms flittering between movements smoothly, their steps light and quick. Occasionally, their supple carriage and ambiguous poses enchanted and mesmerized many a soldier. Men all loved to see a woman’s beauty, which could either be graceful and fine or gorgeous and seductive. These dancers possessed both qualities.
Thank goodness that only strict selections pass dance troupes allowed into the army, Han Yunxi mused to herself. Otherwise, a few women would be enough to ruin a whole regiment of men!
Men could conquer the world, but they were easily conquered by women in turn! While she was looking down on them in silence, the most beautiful dancer of the lost suddenly danced towards Long Feiye, her movements proud and lithe until she was only ten paces away. This was the closest she could get as an outsider. She tossed her water sleeves towards him until the silk landed past the feet of his table. It was like a lure, or a invitation. As she withdrew her sleeves again, her eyes gave him a seductive look. It wasn’t clear whether Long Feiye was looking, but Han Yunxi saw her charming ways at close distance. Every movement she made, even a simple glance, was filled with bewitching intentions to confuse the senses.
This isn’t dancing at all. She’s simply trying to seduce Long Feiye by eating him up!
After dancing in front of Long Feiye for a bit, the dancers behind her all stepped forward in front of various soldiers. One particially tall dancer ended up standing in front of Baili Mingxiang. Han Yunxi was puzzled. These dancers, they won’t even spare a female like Baili Mingxiang from their seductive ways, either?
At that thought, she suddenly sensed danger. Another good show was about to start! Suddenly, the lead dancer flicked her sleeves at Long Feiye’s table again, but this time she left them there instead of pulling the silk back She gave a sweet and delicate nod as her eyes trailed from her arms to Long Feiye’s table, then finally up to his face with a charming expression.
Han Yunxi’s heart was filled with warnings. She was still trying to figure out whether the danger laid with Long Feiye or Baili Mingxiang when Long Feiye suddenly grabbed the dancer’s sleeves and pulled her towards him...Previous Chapter Next Chapter
And we're back! Looks like next week's going to be playing catch-up for this busy translator. Hope you like the video! It may not be the exact same dance that Long Feiye and company are watching, but it is 《踏歌》(the exact same title)!