"They're here, General, let's go now!" Ping and Tai, each supporting one of Hua Zhu Yu's arm on each side, employed their internal strength and jumped up onto the roof of a house in the alleyway.
The sounds of the approaching horses resonated loudly. Hua Zhu Yu gestured to Ping and Tai to silence their breathing and remain silent. They didn't know what she wanted to do. They didn't understand why she didn't want to quickly leave but they followed her lead and did as she asked. They lowered their bodies, concealing themselves behind the eaves and quietly observed the situation down below.
The dark, narrow alley was instantly illuminated by countless torches. The Feng Yun troops searched through every corner of the alley, their armors s.h.i.+ning under the light of the torches.
Hua Zhu Yu eyes quickly skimmed the group down below but did not see prince Na Lan. She was about to signal Ping and Tai to leave when the sound of another approaching horse could be heard and a carriage came to an abrupt stop at the entrance of the alleyway. The curtains of the carriage was pulled aside and a figure quickly jumped down. Perhaps because the carriage was moving too fast and the journey was b.u.mpy but as soon as he alighted, he supported his hand against the shaft of the carriage and gasped for breath.
Under the illumination of the torches, Hua Zhu Yu saw that it was indeed the prince of Yue Zhi who had arrived.
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Thinking back to the battle in the palace she recalled that he was quite martially skilled. After only half an hour, he seemed to have suffered an internal injury. Was he injured during the fight?
Standing there in his dark robes and mysterious mask, aloof and arrogant, he did not look like himJFL.But Hua Zhu Yu recalled on the battlefield that day heJFJ appeared like the G.o.d of War, a contrasting image from his usual gentle demeanor.
Very quickly, a young general came up to him and reported, "Master, the exit to the pa.s.sage is here, but we're a step too late. They have already left, but I don't think they've gone far!"
“Quickly search!” He ordered, his hoa.r.s.e voice chilling to the bone.
"Yes!" The general said with slight trepidation and quickly commanded the Feng Yun troops to continue searching.
Hoa Tru Vu pressed herself against the rooftop, listening to the unfamiliar voice of the prince of Yue Zhi. Perhaps this was a fake voice she thought. When she had dressed as a man, she had once taken a drug that could change her voice.
“Close the city gates, no one is allowed to leave!” Prince Na Lan coldly ordered as he pressed one hand against his chest, seemingly enduring great pain.
“In the end still a step too late!” His attendant said with a sigh.
“Master, there's people up on the roof!” Very quickly, someone spotted them.
Shocked, Hua Zhu Yu was just a little lost in thought and had exposed herself.
Prince of Yue Zhi looked up. He brandished his black sleeves and instantly jumped up onto the rooftop, leaving the rest of his men behind. "Master….." the Feng Yun troops shouted in alarm.
“Let's go!” Ping and Tai grabbed Hua Zhu Yu's hand and pulled her to leave.
As Hua Zhu Yu ran she turned around and saw the prince of Yue Zhi chasing behind them like a shadow with the Feng Yun troops not far behind him.
Hua Zhu Yu employed her lightness skills and jumped across onto the rooftop of the neighboring building. Looking at the situation, only prince of Yue Zhi was fast enough to catch up to her. He moved quickly and lightly like a breeze in the night without a sound, leaping quietly from one rooftop to the next.
Free of clouds, the skies were a desolate indigo while the moon was a frosty white. There was such a commotion tonight yet the skies were so unexpectedly clear.
Prince of Yue Zhi had slowed down. He had not yet caught up to her but had pa.s.sed Ping and Tai. He suddenly stopped and withdrew his sword, turning around to launch an attack towards Tai. They fought on the roof and and leapt down on the ground. Tai was not his opponent, within a few moves his sword was directed at Tai's throat.
The Feng Yun troops were slowly catching up. Hua Zhu Yu had wanted to leave them behind and find an opportunity to force him to take off his mask but unexpectedly he attacked Tai. Hua Zhu Yu had no choice but to jump down.
On the street, the gloomy flickers of the torchs illuminated the mask on his face. Hua Zhu Yu took note of his pale lips that seemed to be drained of blood. Though he had defeated Tai, his breathing was heavy, there was even blood spilling from the corner of his lips. It seems as though the pursuit has exhausted most of his energy.
“You guys go quickly, don't mind me!” Tai shouted.
How could Hua Zhu Yu leave Tai behind. She went forward and slowly said, "Prince Na Lan, let him go!"
Ji Feng Li looked at her and calmly replied, "Come here and I'll let him go. I already said, don't dream of running away!" His voice was resolute as it had been in the palace but was slightly hoa.r.s.e and tired.
The Feng Yun troops had caught up and surrounded them. Ji Feng Li pushed Tai into the hands of the young general who withdrew his sword along with the rest of the troops. In the blink of an eye, countless swords flashed under the moonlight.
To capture her, he didn't care what methods he had to use.
“Why must you capture me, Prince Na Lan?” Hua Zhu Yu asked, staring intently at his mask.
Ji Feng Li's hand slowly lifted and touched the mask on his face but in the end he didn't take it off. He was hesitant because he feared she would run further away or try to kill him again once she realized it was him.
The only thing he could do now was to capture her first!
“Ha, with so many troops this prince thought you had captured Huangfu Wu Shuang, prince Na Lan." Suddenly, a proud laughter resonated in the air, sounding especially jarring.
As soon as the words were spoken, a red cloud descended to the ground. Everyone's eyes landed on the newcomer only to see his handsome jade-like face, dark ink brows, and charming peach blossom eyes. With his grand red robes and golden crown, he was a dazzling sight to behold.
“And here I thought it was someone else, so it's actually Prince Rui!” Ji Feng Li calmly glanced at Dou Qian Jin and tried to suppress the pain emanating from his chest.
"It seems this prince is not welcomed here. But there's no other way, the prince can't not come. This prince heard Huangfu Wu Shuang's Empress was actually this prince's Princess Consort. I also heard you had captured them thus I came here in a rush." After speaking Dou Qian Jin walked over to Hua Zhu Yu and said with a smile, "That day this prince was blind to not recognize Commander Bao was actually this prince's Princess Consort!"
"Your Princess Consort?" Startled, Ji Feng Li asked in a hoa.r.s.e voice as the atmosphere tensed.
"That's right, that day, she disguised herself as Princess Zhou Ya. This prince came to Northern Kingdom to marry her. This prince's marriage took place before Huangfu Wu Shuang thus she is this prince's princess consort, not Huangfu Wu Shuang's Empress! Prince Na Lan, I hope you can let her go," Dou Qian Jin said as he looked at Ji Feng Li.
"His words, are they true?" Ji Feng Li asked as his eyes remain fixed on Hua Zhu Yu's face, taking note of every change in her facial expression.
"You must not renege on your responsibilities. That day you received a large amount of betrothal gifts from me," Dou Qian Jin said with a smirk as he looked at Hua Zhu Yu.
Hua Zhu Yu was somewhat taken aback. She didn't expect Dou Qian Jin to suddenly appear, much less antic.i.p.ate that he would proclaim her as his princess consort. That day, she took advantage of him. She didn't want to marry him. She had used him in order to escape from Northern Kingdom. She knew that this was very unfair to Dou Qian Jin. And it was indeed true that Northern Kingdom had received a substantial amount of betrothal gifts from him. Unexpectedly, after hiding for so long he still found her, he even knew she pretended to be Zhou Ya.
“That's right, what Prince Rui said was all true. He and I have indeed gotted married.” Once she spoke she glanced at prince Na Lan and noticed his deep eyes darkening.
"How about it Prince Na Lan? This is between me and Huangfu Wu Shuang. It has nothing to do with the nation of Yue Zhi. If you want to help Huangfu Wu Shang, what you must do now is capture Huangfu Wu Shuang not this prince's princess consort!" Dou Qian Jin said with a smile.
Ringing beside Ji Feng Li's ears were Hua Zhu Yu's words. He felt the smell of blood becoming increasingly stronger. His whole body ached as if there were thousands of knives piercing him. His breathing was also becoming heavier but he could only faintly smile…
However, before he could smile, he was overwhelmed with dizziness and fell to the ground.
In the distance, he could hear the sound of water running from the water clock, carrying a sense of cold desolation.
It was already the fourth night.w.a.tch (1-3am).
Last time he was imprisoned, his 8 meridians were severely injured. Afterwards he had taken a drug to feign his death. If he hadn't consumed valuable medications, he would've soon became a useless man, a waste. Although his internal strength was restored, after the exchange with Huangfu Wu Shuang and chasing after Hua Zhu Yu, he could no longer hold on. He pointed at Tai and silently told Na Lan Xue, "This man must be guarded strictly. He must not be set free! Dispatch men to guard Eastern Yan's guest house. Don't let Prince Rui take her back to Eastern Yan." After he finished instructing, his bloodshot eyes turned to look towards Hua Zhu Yu.
In the darkness of the night, standing on the road she was like a lotus, blooming quietly all alone.
Her red clothes were bright as a fire setting his heart aflame, burning the surroundings to ashes leaving only her and nothing else before his eyes.
His line of sight converged on her slender waist and his pupils contracted as his 8 meridians bursted with pain.
Her figure became increasingly blurry until darkness overwhelmed him.
Na Lan Xue supported Ji Feng Li who had fallen unconscious. He ordered the troops to carry Ji Feng Li into the horse carriage then turned around to smile at Dou Qian Jin. "Prince Rui, you may take her away but for the moment you can't return to Eastern Yan." He then ordered the Feng Yun troops, "Escort Prince Rui back to Eastern Yan's guest house. Protect Prince Rui well."
“Yes!” the Feng Yun troops answered.
Upon hearing this, Dou Qian Jin simply smiled.
Hua Zhu Yu watched as the carriage departed. Suddenly, a strong impulse arose in her heart. She wanted to chase after the carriage and see if that person was him or not but at the same time she was apprehensive.
She feared that it wasn't and that her last slivers of hope would ultimately dissipate into wisps of air.
She had never felt this kind of fear before. It seems love had the ability to grip one's heart with fear. This kind of love burned her heart, nibbled away at her bones, and consumed her soul.
She stood silent in the night then slowly turned to Dou Qian Jin and said, “Prince, I'm afraid our marriage that day does not count. The person you wanted to marry was the princess of Northern Kingdom, but I am not the princess. Moreover, we have not performed the necessary salutations.”
Dou Qian Jin frowned then his lips hooked up in a puzzling smile. “Thinking of not keeping your words? But you have already received a lot of betrothal gifts from me.”
Hua Zhu Yu frowned and said, "Prince, I did not accept those gifts. You should go see the Northern Emperor, I don't think he would mind returning them to you. But there is one thing I don't understand, why must prince marry me that day? Why did you come to Southern Kingdom to find Ying Shu Xie?"
"I married you because I knew you're Hua Zhu Yu. I searched for Ying Shu Xie because I knew that he's you. But no matter if it's Hua Zhu Yu or Ying Shu Xie, I have never seen your face before. That Xiao Yin even hid it from me, refusing to tell me that Yuan Bao was you. Otherwise, this prince would've found you sooner! And you… you wouldn't have had to suffer," Dou Qian Jin slowly said in a solemn voice as his peach blossom eyes shone with pity.
“How do you know my ident.i.ty?” Hua Zhu Yu asked in surprise.
"I'll take you to meet someone! You will understand everything then," Dou Qian Jin slowly replied with a smile.