Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
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Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Today, we finally get a glimpse of Murong Qing’s cleverness in action.
Also, yet another issue with my scheduling app today. I hadn’t done a final pass of edits or uploaded a cover image, so I took it back offline. That plugin is going in the dumpster, tbh. Once again, apologies for anyone who came earlier and either saw an unedited draft or no post at all.
Chapter 010: The Tenth Time
The sons of Murong Family all have remarkable looks, but compared to the person before my eyes, even the most outstanding Lian falls somewhat short. From just one glance, the sort of lofty demeanor that Nan Cheng Yao possessed was so memorable that one could never forget it.
I watched him approach, step by step, in an undisturbed and unruffled manner. I had to acknowledge that he had an absurdly handsome face; the lines of his eyes and brows were like the light of a cold moon. The faint grin lingering on his lips was eternally indifferent. It was as if no person, no matter where in the skies and earth, would ever be worthy of his attention.
However, this person seemed to have a pair of eyes that became colder the more he smiled.
I was not sure if it was because in the day time, I had heard from Mother those affairs of the past, but I felt a sudden, near indiscernible pain at the bottom of my heart.
“Having listened in for this long, it should be more than enough.” I noticed that when he met my line of sight, the smile tracing his lips tightened imperceptibly for an instant. Very quickly, it returned to an aloof curve and his deep, magnetic voice once again echoed indolently: “Can I ask how much you heard?”
“Everything.” I could not move a muscle in my body, but my gaze did not avoid his frosty eyes. One word after another, I replied mildly: “I heard what kind of relationship you share with the palace concubine. That someone planted medicine in the Sacred One’s imperial meal.”
His dark eyes held unfathomable depths; they seemed to shake ever so slightly, looking both surprised and dangerous. In a flash, it passed. After some time, he finally spoke up. His voice was still as languid as before, carrying traces of a smile: “Very candid, and very brave.”
I lowered my eyes and laughed shallowly. My voice brought with it a small sense of helplessness: “If I said I heard nothing at all, would you believe me? If I said I understood nothing, would you believe that? I came here first, and besides, I wanted to leave, but you didn’t give me such a chance.”
The grin Nan Cheng Yao’s lips were flowing with interest, but that smile never reached the depths of his eyes. With a laugh, he said: “How amusing. But in regards to certain things, simply knowing is enough. It does not matter how you came to know.”
With a flick, he released my acupoint, his voice scattering lightly into the wind: “What a pity for this set of beautiful eyes.”
Before the words fell, his hand gripped a longsword, already pointing it at the space between my brows.
His movements were too fast, I didn’t even have time to react at all. After that inevitable, initial panic had passed, I quickly glanced at his sword-wielding posture and my heart went frigid, because I already knew that I did not possess even the slightest chance of success. So I simply gave up any notions of fleeing and, with that, my entire person gradually calmed down.
He looked at me with keen interest, his expression carrying a lackadaisical look of regret: “It’s a shame that someone so wonderfully clever cannot be kept. After today, I’ll certainly be lacking in much fun and delight.”
Before I could speak, Shu Ying’s voice traveled over from not too far away: “Young Miss, Young Miss, where are you?”
Nan Cheng Yao’s eyes darkened and he spoke up faintly: “Murong Qing?”
It was clearly a question, but his calm composure revealed that he did not need me to answer at all.
I pondered for a bit, looked directly in his eyes that seemed to hold no temperature at all, then bowed courteously, offering a graceful greeting as I said: “Yes. Qing’er greets Your Highness.”
As I expected, his eyes suddenly turned frigid. The smiled that lingered across his lips remained just as clear and bright as the skies. As he spoke, his voice was as indifferent as before: “Oh? You even know my identity?”
I smiled faintly: “I’ve heard that Your Highness plays a good flute, Murong Qing is fortunate to have heard it today.”
“And then? I don’t believe that you could be so certain based off just the sound of a flute.”
Seeing Shu Ying’s figure come closer and closer, I became a little anxious. Taking a deep breath, I said, one word after another: “Someone who has ability to go in and out of Zi Jing Palace at will, has close relations with palace concubines, and dares to behave so shockingly in Third Wang fu could only be Your Highness yourself. Coupled with the inherent grandeur and hubris that comes with your person, it’s impossible to fool anyone. Your Highness, Murong Qing accidentally offended and will accept Your Highness’ punishment. However, Qing’er’s maidservant is innocent, so I request Your Highness’ benevolence. This has nothing to do with her.”
I naturally did not want to die, but the state of these circumstances was very clear.
The person before my eyes was someone who was capable of personally forcing the one whom he loved the most, that woman who was so unparalleled in this world, to her death.
He was obviously the most beloved son of the omnipotent Sacred One, yet he commits adultery with his imperial father’s concubine in secrecy, even planting medication in the imperial meal.
So the question that must be asked is, in this world, is there anything that he’s not capable of doing?
I chose to say everything without reservation, if for nothing else than to demonstrate that I thoroughly understood the situation at hand. To let him believe that I was not so stupid that I would bring about my own destruction for the sake of exposing his secrets.
This was a gamble. I was betting on his conceit and pride as wang; the wager was the lives of Shu Ying and myself.
Despite knowing that our odds of success were small, this was my one chance.
Nan Cheng Yao’s longsword never left his grip. The smile playing on his lips deepened. Just as he was about to speak, there was a scream. Accompanying it was the blur of a shadow, slender and blue, rushing straight over.
The lantern in Shu Ying’s hand fell to the ground and she hugged me anxiously. She eyed Nan Cheng Yao: “Who are you? Do you realize, realize that this is Third Wang fu? You, if you don’t leave, I’m going to summon people!”
I sighed in my heart. At the end of it all, she still got dragged into this by me. Maintaining my composure, I moved to protect her behind me. I smiled slightly, attempting to make my voice calm and collected: “Shu Ying, don’t be rude. This is His Highness, hurry and bow.”
Shu Ying obviously took in a great shock, she shook badly, but still insisted on speaking to Nan Cheng Yao: “Your Highness, you, can’t, can’t hurt my family’s Young Miss. She, she’s Prime Minister Murong’s treasured young miss. If you hurt her, how, how will you explain this to the prime minister?”
“Oh? Her concerns are rather justifiable. What do you say?” With that lazy smile, Nan Cheng Yao asked as he looked directly into my eyes.
I smiled faintly: “Qing’er is unlucky, soon after arriving at wang fu, she contracted a deadly disease and could not rise. His Highness tried many medical treatments, but the situation still couldn’t be reversed. Or, by the swords of a group of assassins attacking the wang fu in the middle of the night, Qing’er was unlucky and lost her life. Or even, a random white tiger in this maple grove could also be capable of taking human lives. There are simply too many potential excuses. Father knows that Your Highness has no intent on killing his daughter. Furthermore, when the incident occurred, Your Highness was still in the palace serving His Majesty. Though Father may have some suspicions, he definitely wouldn’t act rashly. And the grand funeral that Your Highness holds for Qing’er would give Murong Family more than enough face.
“Young, Young Miss!” Shu Ying was both alarmed and scared, clearly not expecting that I would say such words.
But I could not divide enough of my attention to console her. My eyes stared unblinkingly at Nan Cheng Yao.
His grip on the sword had not loosened, but his lips gradually began to suppress some laughter. He paused for a long time, then spoke mildly: “Just now, you said that there’s a white tiger in the grove?”
I couldn’t quite understand. His address was ordinary, but my instinct told me that there must be something crucial here. Yet, in that moment, I could not make sense of it at all. I could only say cautiously: “This maple grove is vast and dense. If Your Highness wanted to rear some creatures in it for hunting pleasure, it’s not out of the possibility. Just now, Qing’er didn’t think too much, only speaking out of instinct. If there was any offense just now, Your Highness, please pardon.”
The weight of his lips brought on another smile; its cold curvature seemingly holding a bit of self-deprecation. His sword-wielding gesture seemed to loosen.
I had just breathed a sigh of relief, but Shu Ying suddenly gave rise to a bout of courage that came from who knows where and fiercely stepped in front of me protectively. She spoke up with a sense of righteousness that prevented her from backing down: “If Your Highness must take a life, then let Shu Ying be the substitute. Your Highness, please have mercy on my family’s Young Miss!”
From the lighting of the flint to the burning of fire,1 all I saw was the flash of the longsword in Nan Cheng Yao’s hand. The next second, Shu Ying had already dropped heavily to the ground.
From her chest, blood flowed.
Nan Cheng Yao re-sheathed the sword with devil-may-care laugh: “As one wishes.”
“You, how could you, she doesn’t even know anything!”
Facing this abrupt turn of events, my chest suddenly pained. In that moment, it felt as if my mind was a blank. I couldn’t even think straight.
Resolutely shutting my eyes, slender fingers clenched into fists. The pain of nails digging into my palms let me gradually come to.
I took in a deep breath, not daring to have any sort of hesitation. I swiftly took off my white cloak and laid it on the ground, then carefully moved Shu Ying over and began unfastening her dress to check on her injury.
Her fair and delicate skin suddenly lay bare to the cool air. Nan Cheng Yao’s indolent voice rang lazily behind me: “Don’t all women pay mind to their chastity? She may not appreciate your behavior right now.”
A faint thread of a smile surfaced on my lips. I carefully straightened out her clothes, then stood up and looked Nan Cheng Yao directly in the eye: “Her life is in danger, why hold onto empty rhetoric like that of a chaste reputation? Your Highness, Shu Ying’s injury must be treated immediately. I can’t carry her back to the residence without impacting her wound.”
He chuckled: “So the implication of your words is that I do the work for you? Have you forgotten that her injury was bestowed by myself?”
“Your Highness, I do not have the time to speak in riddles with you. The swordplay you used to harm Shu Ying was well-executed, capable of injuring her heart and lungs, causing instantaneous fainting. But it’s not fatal enough to take a life. You did this to send me a warning.”
Nan Cheng Yao fixated on me with interest, but he did not speak. I knew he was waiting for me to continue.
Steadying my emotions a bit, with my usual calm tone of address, I continued speaking: “Your Highness, Murong Qing swears that this evening, I returned, as per usual, to rest in my room early, but unexpectedly encountered assassins in the night. To protect her master, Shu Ying got injured. Luckily, the guards in the fu heard and came to save us. This is the entire matter, that’s it.”
Seeing Nan Cheng Yao continue to smile without speaking, my heart became both anxious and helpless. My tone unwittingly became a little sharper: “Your Highness, now that Qing’er has married into the wang fu, regardless of calamity or fortune, I’m destined to share burdens with Your Highness. I ask, what reason would I have to harm my husband and suffer guilt by association? When the tree falls, the monkeys disperse;2 there are no complete eggs under an overturned nest. Qing’er understands these simple concepts. So, I beg of you, send Shu Ying back to the room. Her body once took on great injuries. If she loses too much blood, my fear is that she cannot be saved.”
Nan Cheng Yao stared at me for a long time, then finally chuckled: “I hope you won’t let me down.”
Translator’s Note: I’ll be honest, this is not the only time in the story where I’ve wanted to drop kick Nan Cheng Yao into space. But once things start getting better, the payoff feels so well-deserved.