In the thirty-third year since the Emperor ascended to the throne in the Xuan Kingdom, omens appeared in the skies.
On the first night of Spring, thunder echoed in the sky while shooting stars flew towards the east, blazing a trail behind them. The commoners in Chang’an all bore witness to the scene.
The next day, a heavy snowfall suddenly fell upon the capital, causing the commoners to be terrified and uneasy.
Three days later, floods overwhelmed the provinces in the south, destroying the homes and livelihood of the commoners.
In another three days, an epidemic broke out in the south. Complaints sprung up from the grassroots and all officials wore themselves out trying to respond.
The Imperial Astronomer who was in charge of the astrological signs informed the Emperor that there was a malefic star closing in on the Star of the Emperor. The Star of the Emperor was in imminent crisis. At that moment, many of the officials in court were incapable of solving the issues of the kingdom. The Emperor flew into a rage and removed the Eighth Prince’s power in supervising the kingdom. Some officials were demoted again, resulting in the remaining officials to be in a constant state of anxiety.
While all the officials were on tenterhooks, Situ was still leading his life as usual.
As the Feng Residence’s celebration for the child’s first birthday was set in motion without restraint, the First Lady’s health gradually recovered while the Second Lady was still as gentle as ever and did not contend for anything. Thus, the two of them handled the matters in the Feng Residence and were in charge of the arrangements of the first birthday celebration.
This implied that Feng Luodi was not involved in anything much. Hence, Situ took her to tour the main streets and small alleys of Chang’an. He seemed to be planning to experience all the sceneries together and keep it well preserved in his memory.
Gan Qingjia and Qi Jianqiu were newlyweds and were in an extremely loving relationship. Xue Yiqi who was originally busy with official affairs was followed everywhere by Shangguan Yan until he had to flee in distress. Jiang Moyin who was a lonely recluse was enjoying his few remaining days and struck up an unexpected friendship with the Eldritch Physician Xia Jingfeng as chess buddies.
At the Painting of Ten Miles, Situ supported Feng Luodi as she dismounted the horse. As soon as Feng Luodi came down, Black Whirlwind snorted and left for a walk. It probably took off too delightedly as the birds in the woods instantly flew away in surprise.
Situ shook his head helplessly. He walked side by side with Feng Luodi on the long bridge at the Painting of Ten Miles. The scenery was still as before and the people were still as before but the only thing that had changed was them.
The pink peach blossoms swayed in the breeze, waving their thin white arms. Bright red Yulan magnolias* were budding and resembled shy young damsel. The Glossy Shower** flowers persistently crept onto the branches and smiled at all who passed by. When they walked down from the bridge and reached the small pavilion, what entered their eyes was so gorgeously red that people could not look straight at them. The numerous scarlet colours were like gems embedded on branches.
Feng Luodi’s hands held onto the railings as she appreciated this assortment of beautiful flowers. This was her third Spring in this world. The first time was when she first arrived here. After she got acquainted with the Beauty of Chang’an, she got to know Chang’an’s Four Gentlemen one after another. She ultimately became lovers with the First Gentleman, acknowledged the Second Gentleman as her elder brother while the Third Gentleman and Fourth Gentlemen were her good friends. She also had a mother who she loved dearly, Jet and Scarlet who always brightens up her day as well as Fei who had boundless potential.
The second Spring she spent in Chang’an was when she returned to Chang’an from the deserts of the North. It was the first time she doubted her own goals and her own existence. Yet, no one answered her doubts for her. Phantom never appeared again. Now that it is the third Spring, she is closer to her goal, but she could feel her heart wavering, making her constantly uneasy. To add fuel to the fire, what she faced was a perilous situation. Danger was ahead of her but there was no way out behind her.
Situ stood beside Feng Luodi, the gentleness at his lips clearly revealed his good mood as if he was not affected by the situation in court at all. As she silently stared at the lake, Feng Luodi finally could not refrain herself from speaking, “I heard from Jianqiu that…”
Feng Luodi stopped. Situ turned his head over to look at her and reached out a hand to brush away the flowers that had landed on her shoulders. The corner of his mouth was slightly upturned and his trace of a smile spread through the small pavilion.
“You’re still so not forthcoming in front of me?” Feng Luodi looked at him in panic. This was not the Situ she’d known at the start.
“The Eighth Prince and Miss Linglong are connected? Could it be that Moonglade is an intelligence organisation just like Dream Mirrors?"
When Qi Jianqiu told her that Linglong and the Eighth Prince’s subordinate had met, this notion popped up in her mind. It was extra sensitive seeing as how the First Prince, the Eighth Prince and the Eleventh Prince were currently divided into three factions and had already clearly drawn the line.
We will only be safe if we are sensitive enough to detect the dangers hidden beneath the surface.
Situ reached out his hand once again and gently caressed the space between Feng Luodi’s eyebrows. “Why are you frowning? There is no problem I cannot solve.”
A smile slipped across Feng Luodi’s lips. This person who is always extremely steady and solemn always become so arrogant that he considers himself unrivalled in the world at this moment. However, he does indeed have this ability. She suddenly wanted to see the Situ on the battlefield. How would he be like then?
It totally did not come across Feng Luodi that this idea of hers would be realised under that kind of circumstances on a certain day in the future.
“You still haven’t answered my question.” Feng Luodi did not want to worry about imaginary fears anymore. She still had the Shadow Agents under her. She should not sit and wait for death but take the initiative to attack instead. This was considered the last thing she could do for Situ.
Situ could not change her mind so he finally gave in, “Qingjia and I both suspect that Linglong is not from our kingdom, but we have no evidence.”
Feng Luodi widened her eyes. This also applied to Emerald last time. She was of Ailao descent and collaborated with the Seventh Prince. Now, not even her corpse remains.
If Linglong is also someone from another race, then what is the Eighth Prince secretly planning?
When she saw the cold glint in Situ’s eyes, Feng Luodi sighed. The struggle for the throne had always been like the battlefield where thousands of soldiers’ lives are exchanged for the success of one general, the final victor ascends to the throne on steps made from his fallen foes. However, she cannot understand if the desire to seize the throne was to the extent of colluding with other countries to seize control of his own nation.
Hence, the Emperor punished the Seventh Prince heavily without taking Concubine Shu’s maternal clan into consideration and even if the Seventh Prince had yet to fully executed his plan.
Would the current Eighth Prince also take this risky move? Feng Luodi thought differently. The Eighth Prince already has so much power in his hands; surely there’s no need for that.
An insight suddenly flashed across her mind. Feng Luodi suddenly knew what she should let the Shadow Agents investigate.
Situ sighed slightly. The woman before him still had to concern herself about these matters. One day, when the First Prince’s great undertaking has been accomplished, he would leverage on his meritorious service to resign and take Feng Luodi to travel to some faraway place. They would first finish touring both sides of Yangtze River, then settle down in the deserts of the North. There would only be the two of them in the desolate world. Yet, Situ had never thought that they would ultimately have that time of outcome. He could only sigh. Fate liked to tease people and play with them within its palms.
“There’s still one more matter.” When Feng Luodi was awake from her contemplation, she bit the bottom of her lips slightly. She was unsure if she should mention the thought on her mind.
Situ caressed her lips and rubbed it delicately as he sighed again. “Do you need me to say it again?”
“I have heard,” Feng Luodi hesitated for a while and ultimately decided to say, “that the Emperor confiscated a part of your military power. Regardless of how the ministers objected, the Emperor was still insistent on doing so?”
Situ snorted softly. “It’s Duo who told you right?”
Feng Luodi was a little embarrassed. It was she who’d pestered Covert Guard Duo and got the answer out of her. Although she knew that Situ had always hoped for her to not worry about the matters in court and follow the Eldritch Physician’s to rest more and worry less, but she had a talkative friend Jianqiu, and a member of the Covert Guard with outstanding abilities by her side. She also had Shangguan Yan who had many spies as well as the Shadow Agents under her control. It was impossible for her to not know about such matters.
“Cough, didn’t you say that you won’t hide anything from me?”
Situ simply took Feng Luodi into his arms and placed his head on top of Feng Luodi’s head out of habit. The warm breath was gradually transmitted to her, making her feel a little uncomfortable. A blush crept its way up her face.
“Alright, I’ll say. the Emperor did indeed do this. The First Prince, Qingjia, the two Ministers, as well as your father had all objected but the Emperor still took away a part of my military power but he conferred me a title.”
“What title?” Feng Luodi was puzzled. Does this count as giving a sweet date after giving a slap?
“General of the Flying Dragon.”
“Dragon?” Feng Luodi cried out in surprise. “The Emperor is doing this on purpose. Only the Son of Heavens, himself, can have the have the title of a dragon.”
Situ smiled a little. “This is the Emperor’s aim. He wants to leave a reason to pin a crime on me in the future.”
“Can you not refuse it?” Feng Luodi placed her hand on Situ’s arms. She raised her head and looked at him with a nervous expression.
Situ covered Feng Luodi’s eyes with his palm and replied unhurriedly, “The crime of defying an imperial decree is even more serious. It’s useless. As long as the Emperor wishes to do so, he will come up with all kinds of methods to punish me for a crime. For instance, he could make use of the omens in the skies, or the calamities in the various regions. I can completely be described as a star of calamity that imperils the Xuan Kingdom.”
“The Emperor is really unreasonable.” Feng Luodi who just got rid of Situ’s hand missed the killing intention and fury that flickered past Situ’s eyes.
“This sentence of yours is considered heresy.”
Situ smiled lightly but it still looked like he did not take it seriously. Feng Luodi glared at him. The uneasiness and panic in her eyes did not dissipate for a long time.
“Don’t worry, this is already considered the best outcome for now, seeing as how the Emperor did not summon to some hall and murder me in cold blood with the help of a thousand archers. He could’ve easily done that and pin some nonsensical sentence over my corpse.” When he said those words, he was calm and composed.
“Was that supposed to be comforting?” Feng Luodi’s chest heaved heavily. Her eyes which were slightly narrowed caused Situ to inwardly exclaim ‘uh oh’ in his heart. He had forgotten that this move was useless against this intelligent woman before him.
“Don’t worry, I was only joking. I am very clear about the Emperor’s temperament. He is almost at the end of his life and he wouldn’t want anything he do to leave behind a blemish on his name. He wouldn’t strike unless he is completely without any other choices. What he is after is to be open and aboveboard. He also fears the generals from the Situ Clan. He is scared of the Northern Army. Because of his many worries, I’ll have many opportunities to strike. You have to believe that we will win.”
“I do.” When Feng Luodi instantly finished saying this, she looked at Situ with her burning gaze and asked relentlessly.
“When will the Emperor be forced into a corner? Is it when the First Prince and the Eighth Prince’s powers threaten him and the Eleventh Prince? Also, if you’re so assured of your success, do you already have a plan?”
Being questioned repeatedly caused Situ to laughed in spite of himself but when he realised something, he was immediately unable to laugh.
“Luodi, you plan to mobilise the Shadow Agents?”
In that case, it would mean that she was going to use Jiang Moyin’s people to help him. T_hat is Jiang Moyin_. Situ was spot on regarding Feng Luodi’s thoughts. She immediately turned her head away to look at the lake. Her tone suddenly became very tranquil. “What are you talking about? I don’t understand.”
This was a lie that could not deceive anyone but Situ pretended that he believed. However, he was slightly sighing in his heart. Moyin, how is he doing now?Previous Chapter Next Chapter