Chapter 26 – Hope to Never Meet You Again for the Rest of This Life
In a blink, Murong Zhining had stayed in Chongde County for five months. During this time frame, Chiyun Yuexuan never had anyone arrive to take her to Fuling. The vice general still visited on schedule to give Luo Siyao the money for their living expenses.
Today, Murong Zhining brought Cai Sang and Luo Siyao and happily strolled around the market. Cai Sang bought a bouquet of lilies and held it in her arms. According to her plan, the bouquet would be arranged in the flower vase in Murong Zhining’s room. Cai Sang smiled brightly, “It’d be great if that beast never bothers us again. Maybe we can return to the capital after a while.”
Murong Zhining fluttered the round silk fan embroidered with magnolia flowers in her hand. “You can return there whenever you want. But, I can’t. I can only stay here as a hostage for now, and perhaps for the rest of my life.”
Cai Sang smiled sweetly at her. “I and Yaoyao will follow you wherever you are. I don’t believe that brute can keep you trapped forever.”
Luo Siyao happily bobbed her head. “Mhm, I and Cai Sang will always follow you.” To her, serving Murong Zhining was so much better than being a slave in the military.
Murong Zhining was dressed in a short pink satin vest with narrow sleeves, coupled with a silk dress of the same color, and covered in a light pink, half-transparent sleeveless shawl of thin silk. A plain satin sash tied around her waist. She was holding a small round silk fan, looking like a lady of a wealthy family, and attracted numerous envious eyes walking through the street. Cai Sang and Luo Siyao had this outfit tailored after they selected the materials in the tailor’s shop. Murong Zhining refused to wear it at first, thinking the color was too fancy for her. She possessed an experienced vibe that didn’t match her age and a heart so calm it no longer stirred with emotions. Cai Sang had a hard time persuading her to put it on.
Murong Zhining stubbornly felt that the outfit was already too glamorous and refused to wear any jewelry. Instead, she had Cai Sang tie up her hair in a random bun with a pink ribbon, the two tails of the which floated gracefully behind her. In the originally ordinary costume, Murong Zhining looked like a girl out of a painting.
Luo Siyao suddenly stopped and commented curiously, “Why haven’t I seen the people tailing us today?”
Cai Sang also touched her head, puzzled. “I know right? We’ve walked for a long time without anyone following us.”
Murong Zhining gazed intently at a qin shop on the street. “Who has the free time to watch we three servants for fun?”
As for Cai Sang, she stared fixedly at the small food stall. “Zhining, you are not a servant. You look like a princess.”
Murong Zhining smiled bitterly. “Where can you find a princess that has fallen to a state like this?”
Cai Sang saw the candied fruits being sold on the street and made a fuss to buy some. While she was a little older than Murong Zhining, her personality was a bit child-like. Luo Siyao was unable to stand her wheedling bought a skewer to dismiss her. However, Cai Sang wasn’t done, “What’s the fun eating alone? You guys accompany me, each have a skewer as well.”
The trio happily ate the candied fruits as they walked back. Up ahead, a person was approaching on horseback. The crowd around bowed their heads and retreated to the sides. The three girls were chatting in high spirits, so they didn’t pay attention to the person and kept walking as they talked. When Cai Sang realized that the horse didn’t let them pass, she looked up, wanting the talk them away.
Luo Siyao was the first to react when she saw the person’s face. She instantly performed the most solemn curtsy. Murong Zhining also quickly looked up to see an ice cold but handsome face, as well as the charming phoenix eyes on them. While those eyes wasn’t as sharp as in the past, they were still without a hint of warmth.
Chiyun Yuexuan looked down from horseback, emanating a unique aura that rendered people unable to look straight at him. “The guards reported that you were very sick, but you seem to be enjoying yourself very much!” As if coming out of an icehouse, his voice made people’s blood run cold. “His Majesty has decreed that I am to escort Murong Zhining back to the capital. You lot hurry and go pack up, we will set out immediately.” His tone left no room for negotiation.
Cai Sang inwardly cheered, but Murong Zhining was unsettled. She vaguely felt that something big was going to happen.
A carriage, bigger and more comfortable than the one carried them here was already waiting at the entrance. Cai Sang asked worriedly, “General Chiyun, do you know why His Majesty has summoned Zhining back?”
Chiyun Yuexuan coldly rebuked, “This is not something a servant like you can ask.”
As the three girls sat inside the carriage returning to the capital, Cai Sang exclaimed at the abrupt turn of events with a sigh, “I didn’t think we would go back to the capital so soon. I knew it, His Majesty can’t forget Zhining. When we return, Zhining will definitely be appointed as an imperial consort.”
Murong Zhining shook her head. “Cai Sang, your shortcoming is that you don’t like to think with your head. If His Majesty was really reluctant about me, he would have prevented me from leaving with the army. Besides, I am, in name, a concubine of Chiyun Yuexuan. Even if His Majesty wants to confer me, it’s still against the rules and regulations. Things are not as simple as you want to think.”
On horseback, Chiyun Yuexuan was feeling ill-at-ease. This was the second decree from Yan Feng ordering Murong Zhining to be escorted back to the capital. He had directly ignored the first one, worried that Yan Feng was still thinking about Murong Zhining, because then, everything that he had done until then would be in vain.
Yan Feng’s second decree allowed no resistance. It said, Murong Zhining must be escorted back to the imperial capital unscathed, and those who resist the decree shall be killed without mercy. Yan Feng had never been so cruel to him, which he knew, and which also give him a feeling that the matter wasn’t so simple as he had thought.
When stopping for rest in the evening, Chiyun Yuexuan carefully checked the terrain structure many times before giving the order to settle down here. He increased the number of soldiers guarding outside Murong Zhining’s tent. Yan Feng’s decree said Murong Zhining must be delivered to the capital unscathed. The weight of that one sentence made him dare not be careless.
At night, when Cai Sang and Luo Siyao was accompanying Murong Zhining in a conversation, Chiyun Yuexuan lifted open the tent flap and came in. “I have something to say to Murong Zhining, you two servants are to retreat outside and wait.”
Cai Sang was afraid he would hurt Murong Zhining and refused to budge. Chiyun Yuexuan shouted angrily, “I won’t do anything to harm her, so scram!”
Cai Sang helplessly glanced at Murong Zhining before resentfully leaving the tent.
As usual, Murong Zhining didn’t do anything to pay her respects to Chiyun Yuexuan. She sat properly in the spot and looked up at him, like a proud princess accepting her subject’s homage.
Chiyun Yuexuan was indifferent as ever. “No matter for what reason His Majesty has summoned you to the capital, you should still remember who you are. If you dare do something that will tarnish my reputation and dignity, this general will demand it back ten folds from both you and your family.”
Murong Zhining seemed extremely calm. “Even if General didn’t tell me this, I still understand. Regardless of everything that has happened, I never intended to remain by His Majesty’s side anyway, and the current me is even more self-aware. After returning to the capital, we will be two irrelevant people. I only hope that in this life, General and I will never meet again.”
Chiyun Yuexuan didn’t say anything, but a faint displeasure permeated his heart. Every time he stood in front of Murong Zhining and saw her unruffled expression, he would be extremely angry, as if the one whose dignity was trampled on had never been Murong Zhining, but him, Chiyun Yuexuan.
With an indifferent face, Chiyun Yuexuan turned and left the tent.
With the carriage running on and off, the imperial capital was getting closer and closer. Murong Zhining was restless all the way, repeatedly guessing how the situation would develop. During this, Chiyun Yuexuan didn’t give her a hard time again.
In the carriage, Luo Siyao sat, lost in thought. She suddenly asked, “I wonder if Zhining will come out after entering the palace this time. Should I follow you guys or should I go back to Fuling with the general?”
Cai Sang didn’t care. She glanced at Luo Siyao. “Then who do you want to follow? As far as I’m concerned, you’re very reluctant to leave that master of yours.”
Luo Siyao fell silent, looking to be troubled over the difficult choices. After a while, she said, “I’m indebted to the general for his mercy, but really I don’t want to part with you and Zhining.”
Murong Zhining held her hands, “You have the right to decide your own future. We can’t be sure whether I and Cai Sang will stay or go yet, you still have time to consider. No matter what choice you make, I’ll still support you.”
There were no delays during this return trip. Escorted by the cavalry, the cavalcade arrived at the capital over ten days later. Cai Sang lifted the carriage curtains to look at the familiar city walls, excited to the point of tears. “I’ve returned! I thought we could never return to the capital again.”
This time, Chiyun Yuexuan returned for an impromptu mission, so there was no welcoming ceremony like the last time. However, a lot of citizens still stood on the roadsides and respectfully bowed to Chiyun Yuexuan. At the palace entrance, several eunuchs and maids were already waiting. Chiyun Yuexuan handed Murong Zhining to them and directly went to Yan Feng to report his mission. He was anxious to know why Yan Feng had summoned Murong Zhining to the capital.
Yan Feng called Chiyun Yuexuan to the Imperial Study. After the courtesy, Yan Feng didn’t tell him to sit. The atmosphere was awkward. Yan Feng was obviously still angry at Chiyun Yuexuan, which showed when he spoke.
Yan Feng turned his face to the side. “This emperor never thought that General Chiyun could disregard our friendship and insisted on taking Miss Murong away from me. If you treated her well, I would have nothing to say, but I had an officer report to me what you did. I really don’t understand, how could you do something so cruel to such a weak woman?”
Chiyun Yuexuan didn’t look ashamed in the least. “Your Majesty, do you want to interfere with my family affairs now? Did you summon my beloved concubine to the capital to be together with her? Are you trying to humiliate me like this?”
Yan Feng threw the cup on the ground and roared in rage, “Even now, you still don’t know what you’ve done? Is it me humiliating you, or you humiliating me? You took away my beloved woman and don’t even want to give her a concubine title, just who is humiliating who?! You still think there’s anything left of our friendship at this point?”
Chiyun Yuexuan knelt down on one knee. “If Your Majesty truly wants to humiliate me, then please, just grant me death.”
Yan Feng flung his sleeves, the fury was making him lose control of himself. He tried hard to calm his temper. “Don’t think that I’ll keep unconditionally relenting to you just because you saved my life. I’m not fighting with you to take Murong Zhining. She doesn’t belong to you, nor does she belong to me.”