Previous | Next
Chapter 6: Agreement
It required a little bit of effort on my part to assist Yao Jinzi in standing on his feet. His hands are ice cold and I quickly take off the fur cloak from around my shoulder to wrap around him. Ai, taking off a warm outer clothing in the middle of winter, anyone will fell the chill even more. I shiver slightly, a little reluctant to part with the cloak but manage to convince myself that someone else needs it more than I do right now.
His face is stoic when I tug off my cloak, but the moment it drapes around his body, he cannot prevent the loosening of his muscles and relax expression showing on his young face no matter how he tries to conceal it. That cloak was tailored specifically for me, so it is inevitably shorter by quite a bit when the young man wears it. On top of that, he isn’t wearing any shoes, leaving the calf of both legs bare.
Thinking that his legs must be feeling numb right now, I turn to instruct my servants. “What are you looking at? Go get some clothes and shoes.” They scamper off to do my bidding.
My wrist suddenly flares up in pain. Turning my head to look, I realise Jinzi is gripping it firmly as if trying to crush my bone. It hurts so much I feel as though my wrist will break off anytime soon. Not able to tolerate it anymore, I frown. “What are you doing? Let go, it hurts!”
He ignores me, stubbornly staring at my face. “Exactly what is going on? What happened to your Jade Spider Art, Zhang Daren?”
My heart tightens and I blurt: “Are you looking for death? Or do you not care about your younger brother anymore? Still not going to release my hand?!”
Sure enough, his little brother is his Achilles’ heel. I manage to divert his attention with just one sentence. Letting go of my wrist, he grabs the lapels of my robes instead, growling: “What did you do to him?”
Impatiently sighing, I answer: “Didn’t I already say, he is receiving medical treatment.”
Half believing and half doubting, he looks at me until I fell rather restless. Fortunately, at this moment, a servant returns with clothes and a pair of shoes. I move out of the way in order to let that servant attend to Jinzi. Fully dressed now, the servant holds my fox-fur cloak in one hand, inquiring with his eyes what should be done with it. Nodding my head, I indicate the youth should wear it.
Who knew when the cloak is about to be draped over the youth, that brat blocks it with one hand, causing my cloak to fall to the ground, coldly saying: “No need.”
Okay, I admit he is still rather unyielding in character. I can’t decide between being angry or finding it funny. However, I have never been one to lower myself and argue with a rebellious teen still going through puberty. Hence, I smile good-naturedly – completely unaware that it turns into an evil smile in his eyes – and walk out of the dungeons, hinting for him to follow.
Halting after two steps, that smelly, stiff stone is still standing there, expressionless, eyes frigid, completely not intending to follow me. Yah, he still possesses male chauvinism. Not that it matters, as I am not going to bother prying him open to see what makes him tick.
“Would it inconvenience you to come with me to the study?” The smile on my face doesn’t falter despite the thoughts running through my mind. Only then did that rascal move unwillingly, following along as though walking to his execution.
Under the gazes of the servants crowding along the paths, we make our way towards the door of my study. Allowing him to enter first, I wave my hand at the servants. “Scatter. Go do what you are all meant to be doing.”
As I step into the study, I feel the atmosphere is a little strange. Yao Jinzi, that rascal, is sitting upright and afraid in between the bookshelf and the flower stand. Not looking at anyone, not looking at the books around him. His expression is really bad despite the faraway look in his eyes. He completely ignores the unwavering, worshipping stare Xiao Lu aims at him, ignoring that small face turning red with excitement…
Xiao Lu? Oh, that’s right. That little kid is also here and has already changed into a new outfit, his small body exuding enthusiasm. Once Xiao Lu catches sight of me, he promptly comes forth to kowtow, only to be stopped by me before he can bow his head.
“Enough, enough,” I say, laughing. “Always kowtowing, better be careful not to knock you little brain silly. From now on, just a normal greeting will do.”
“Daren,” Xiao Lu stands beside me, chatting away. “Does Brilliant Sabre older brother always come to the study? Will I be able to see Brilliant Sabre older brother often in the future? This is my first time seeing him so close! Brilliant Sabre older brother has been my idol since childhood. That time when he used qinggong to flip over the wall of the Imperial Palace, he really looked like he was flying…everyone present was praising him so much…”
This kid really doesn’t fear me even a little.
However, why is he so clever when he needs to be but so silly when there’s no need to be clever? Would the Yao Jinzi right now wish to hear people talking about his past days of glory.
“All right, Xiao Lu, you talk too much,” I interrupt him. “Go find Hong Feng and ask her to give you another two sets of new clothes and two sets of “Four Treasures of the Study”. After that, you will be my study partner. It will be better if you learn to recognise some words.”
Xiao Lu becomes giddy with happiness, immediately giving his affirmative before jumping out the open window, too impatient to even use the door. I follow his retreating figure with my eyes, glancing everywhere to make sure there really is no one around. Can there possibly be an expert hiding somewhere I cannot detect? The things I want to say must not be heard by a third party…
“In case you are wondering if there’s anyone eavesdropping, I can guarantee there is none.” A clear, cold voice suddenly comes from behind me, so close that I jump in fright.
Turning around, I nearly bump into him. “Scared me to death.” Unconsciously a little angry at him, I place a hand on my chest.
I might be because both my words and actions were quite feminine, causing his eyes to dart around, not knowing where to look.
I quickly put my hand down, displaying my signature gentle and soft smile. In my previous life, it is said that a lot of people who sees this beautiful signature smile of mine will break out into cold sweat and have nightmares when they go home. They very tastelessly name it “malicious scheming smile of the Devil”. Naturally, I don’t agree with them as I reckon they think too much. This smile of mine holds no scheme behind it and is not as evil as people presume.
Who knows what results I will get when this smile of mine is plastered on this villain Zhang Qinglian’s face?
The pretty youngster, although brave and looking like he is walking to his death, still retreats a step unconsciously. Annoying. He’s just like the rest of them! Am I really that scary? I take a step forward, shadowing his retreat.
He doesn’t step back again, instead saying icily: “If you have anything to say, just say it. Do you need to get so close?”
Ai, is there any wonder why this person is someone I can admire? He still handsome enough to make a person’s heart thump even as he shows such detestable expressions and says such disagreeable words.
Smoothing out my face, I say: “I am actually here today to talk about a pact between us. A business transaction, one may say. One that will definitely be advantageous for you.”
“A business transaction?” Even if his face is stoic, I can tell he is thinking ‘I absolutely don’t trust you’.
“That’s right. Here’s what I propose. I will take those chains off you and treat you and your younger brother well. In return, you will give me three years of your life. In these three years, you will obey my orders. Naturally, I will not command you to do anything that goes against your conscience and principles. However, you must be loyal, don’t betray my secrets and of course, do no harm to me.”
“Sell my life to you?” The youth sneers disdainfully, the smile that spread across his face carrying four words: ravings of a lunatic!
This reaction is within my expectations. Since I have already planned in advance, I act as though I did not hear his disdain. “Correct.”
“What benefits will I get out of this?” His tone is cynical.
I merely look at him, not saying a word.
The silence turns fairly oppressing, comparable to the atmosphere an experienced actor or politician utilises when looking to make a strong impact with their words in order to move the audience. Although as stoic as before, his heart already seems to waver from the oppressiveness of our surroundings, his body language seeping with uneasiness.
In a split-second, I capture his weakness, slowly spitting out word by word: “I will give you what you desire most. When these three years are up, my life will be yours.”
That pair of deep eyes that have experienced so much pain and suffering but still bright with the vigour of youth, widens at my words.
Striking when the iron is hot, my tone shifts to a heavier and serious one. “On this day three years later, I will offer you this head of mine with both hands. During that time, you can chop it off in revenge for your father, give me a thousand cuts and hang my body for three days and three nights…you can do whatever you wish with it.”
He is so shocked that his body sways a little at this excessive words, but still, he refuses to believe them. Once again displaying that cynical sneer, he says: “Do you think I will believe lies used to deceive a three-year-old child?”
“Do you think I will use lies not even a three-year-old will believe to deceive you?”
“You are most likely thinking to allow me to recuperate my martial arts to help you assassinate any enemies of yours who are a thorn in your side. Am I right?”
I sigh. “I have already established before, I will not make you do anything that is against your principles and conscience.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because the lives of you and your younger brother is currently in the palm of my hands. You have no other choice but to believe me.” Although my voice is gentle, the words are anything but. Not waiting for him to react, my tone changes, becoming stern. “I will uphold my promise this time. I, Zhang Qinglian, may not be a good person, but I most certainly will not break any agreements I make.”
My words are all honest and sincere, with no trace of deception, my bearing distant but resolute. Even the most suspicious of them will waver a little. Attentively scrutinising me with his pair of pretty phoenix eyes, he stares at the line of my face, trying to find any hint of a lie or concealed truth.
Unsurprisingly, he fails. Thinking it over for a while, Jinzi cautiously probes: “I want to know the reason for this first.”
Hehe…I was waiting for him to bite the bait! Otherwise, every word I said up until now would have been in vain. I turn and pace slowly towards the window, bowing my head, allowing the breeze to blow through the long strands of hair at my temple. Not saying a word, creating a mood as though I am currently having an inner conflict and hence is hesitant to speak.
However, Yao Jinzi is not so easily intimidated by this one action and lose his cool. He doesn’t urge me to speak, doesn’t ask, merely waiting silently.
I can only open my mouth. “…This matter, besides you, no third party can know…my Jade Spider Arts…as you also know, is not an easy martial art to practice…”
After hearing him mention Zhang Qinglian practising this Jade Spider Arts, I thought to use it to my own advantage. The name of this martial arts is completely different from the Northern Shaolin style, the Iron Fist style or even the Eight Trigrams style. Instead of being a practice that strengthens muscles, bones and tendons, the Jade Spider Arts is more focused on internal power. The pretty youth coldly scoffs, implying that my guess is right.
Sighing faintly, I continue. “For the past few years, I walked down the wrong fork in the road, accidentally treading into the fires of hell. The signs appeared quite early on…there were problems with my memories. I often completely forget even the important things that I should be able to remember vividly. These events gradually became more serious day after day…I…this morning when I woke up, I couldn’t remember who the person beside me was. I even don’t remember your name…”
Up until here, even the youngster who likes to act cool and aloof can’t help but be surprised.
My expression turns mournful. “The most awful thing is, I have even forgotten my martial arts…In this kind of situation, I am afraid…deep down, I know I don’t have more than a few years to live. In this case, I might as well exchange these remaining years of life. Telling you my secret, the first is to relieve my heart of this burden. The second is you have both brains and brawn, and will be an excellent helping hand…”
Ai, this little guy really is something. Originally, this rascal’s face still expresses traces of doubt, no doubt wanting to ask why I chose to tell my secret to him and not Hong Feng or other subordinates I can trust and so forth. However, after flattering him a little, those suspicions cleared because wouldn’t it be stranger if I didn’t pick him to assist me in my matters? Him, who is clearly better at martial arts than most of my servants.
This time, it is him who paces back and forth, walking here and there, pacing rather quickly. Although my strong point is patience and not losing my composure easily, even I can’t stop a headache from rising while watching him. Luckily, he eventually stops.
“…At that time, in order to catch me, you came up with countless schemes and plans, lost numerous subordinates…now you want to release me. Although my martial arts is wasted, your mansion will no longer have anyone capable of protecting you and restraining me. Are you not afraid I will kill you, snatch Jinfeng back and leave?”
Afraid? Of course, I am afraid. That’s what I am most afraid of!
Outside, I remain calm and composed, smile still playing on my lips. “Of course I am afraid. Which is why I am informing you that I already have preparations and plans in place so as to not disappoint you.”
His expression turns ugly once more, glaring fiercely at me. “What have you done?”
“Hmm…a few years ago, a member of the Miao Tribe gifted me with a little plaything. That parasite is rather unique. It will not harm the host or hinder them in any way. However, once the owner chants, no matter if they are separated by a thousand leagues, it is still able to take the life of the host. Just now, when Hong Feng went to treat Jinfeng, I am afraid she accidentally inserted that parasite into his body.”
Yao Jinzi explodes in rage, lunging forward to grab the lapels of my robe. He is so furious that he can’t even speak properly. “You…you dare…!”
The anger and force are enough to scare people, haha, but it’s not enough to scare me! As of now, all the cards are in the palm of my hand ah.
I don’t panic and don’t get angry, instead gently looking at him, softly saying: “Of course, I dare. You also know that.”
 Four Treasures of the Study = calligraphy brush/pen, ink, paper, inkstone (to grind ink)
Previous | Next