His highness's Allure - Chap 124
Pei Zheng took Shen Shijiu back to the General’s Manor. Shen Shijiu stood outside the gate of the General’s Manor and watched as Pei Zheng’s sedan became a dot in the distance, before he stepped into the manor.
In truth, Zhao Litang was fine now, but Shen Huan still wanted to stay in the General’s Manor for a few more days, in case Zhao Litang’s wounds acted up again.
“Disciple, why were you gone for so long?”
Shen Huan asked as she gazed out at the gate.
“Just you? Where’s Lord Pei?”
“His Lordship is busy, he went back.”
Shen Huan understood. She dragged her little disciple inside.
“Don’t pull such a long face. I’ve got good news for you, tomorrow we can leave the manor with the general to go on a fun trip! Are you excited?”
“Shifu, where are we going?”
“Liuyun Lake, it’s outside of the city.”
Liuyun Lake was outside of the Imperial City, and it was a very large lake. During the cold days of winter, it would freeze over. There was a villa in the center of the lake, and many refined guests would travel by boat and meet up there.
To drift upon the calm, turquoise waters, to heat up a pot of warm wine. Thousands of birds flew away, and there was no trace of people on any path1. There was a different kind of significance to it.
They had planned to meet with several lords at the lakeshore. The people from the General’s Manor were the first to arrive.
Originally, Zhao Litang didn’t intend to take Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu here. He didn’t want to drag them into the matters between official circles.
But after Shen Huan heard about this, she insisted on coming along. Zhao Litang could only agree, and Shen Shijiu had pulled Yue Nu along with them as well.
After they climbed off the sedans, they stood on the shore of Liuyun Lake. The cold wind that blew toward them from the lake was a bit fiercer, so cold that it would make one’s bones shiver as well.
The surface of the lake was as bright and clear as a mirror. As the wind blew, ripples formed in rings, before they slowly dissipated. In the distance, the shining lake water matched the color of the sky, resembling the silver plate beneath Junshan2.
In winter, the lake had a different kind of beauty.
Shen Shijiu stood on the shore and took a deep breath. Then, he exhaled a puff of warm air; it seemed as though he really liked it here.
The clopping of hooves sounded, and several carriages arrived at the lakeshore as well. It was Lord Qian and Lord Wei from yesterday, along with their families.
There were also three more lords who had come with them.
Those lords exchanged greetings with Zhao Litang, before they began to engage in small talk.
Lord Qian said, “General Zhao, I didn’t expect that you would actually grace us with your presence. It is truly our honor.”
“Lord Qian, you’re too kind. Zhao-mou hasn’t returned to the Imperial City for many years, so it is surprising that you lords would remember Zhao-mou. It is Zhao-mou‘s honor.”
“Ai, General Zhao, no need to act like such a stranger. You mustn’t be overcautious today, just say whatever you want to say. We’ll be going to the lake villa, it was opened by my family. General Zhao, you mustn’t be so polite.”
Zhao Litang only smiled. Their intent was practically written all over their faces. Pei Zheng really was quite adept at putting him in difficult positions.
As he was thinking about this, another carriage appeared in the distance; it looked to be a bit more lavish than the others.
That Lord Wei asked quietly, “Old Qian, who else did you invite? Why are there still people arriving?”
Lord Qian was also confused, “Weren’t we together at Yi Pin Xiang yesterday? I only invited General Zhao, who else could have known…”
At this point, the two of them froze, there was indeed someone else present at the time…
The carriage stopped in front of the group. The curtain was lifted, and a figure dressed in black stepped out of the carriage.
“L-Lord Pei, w-why have you come as well?”
With the exception of Zhao Litang, the expressions of all the lords present completely morphed. They all exchanged looks; it seemed that they were all angry, yet too scared to speak up.
“I had time to kill.”
Pei Zheng’s tone was rather cheerful, but no matter how one looked at it, his smile didn’t seem genuine. His long, sharp eyes swept over the group; it was as though he could see all of their thoughts.
“What, am I not welcome here?” Pei Zheng purposely withdrew his smile, and his gaze suddenly turned gloomy.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant…”
Lord Qian’s hands were sweating. The man was already here, what else could he say?
“Lord Pei c-can come along with us. It’s, it’s a tremendous… honor…”
The others all echoed this sentiment, “Yes, yes, yes, that’s right, Lord Pei is swamped with important matters, working for His Majesty to shoulder the nation’s burdens, yet he condescends to attend our meeting. We are too honored, too honored…”
The lords’ forced laughter attracted the attention of their families. Several of their daughters who were of marriageable age looked toward the group, before they began to whisper among themselves, their faces red.
Some of them were looking at Zhao Litang, and some were looking at Pei Zheng.
It seemed as though Pei Zheng had detected something. He lifted his gaze, but his eyes passed over the gaggle of girls, staring at what was behind them.
Not far away, three people stood on the lakefront.
Shen Huan stroked her beard thoughtfully, and sighed incessantly as she gazed out at Liuyun Lake.
Shen Shijiu and Yue Nu each had a small stone in hand; they were competing on who could throw it the furthest.
The two boys’ playfulness came out; they couldn’t hear a word from the group of people talking behind them. They only looked out at the surface of the lake, throwing stones one after the other, inching closer and closer to the edge of the water.
“I’ll definitely do better than you this time, because I’ve got a round rock.” Shen Shijiu raised his arm high as he spoke, before thrusting the rock outward.
Yue Nu squatted on the ground and searched for a long time, before he found a stone and stood up.
“Mine is good too, because it’s even rounder than yours.”
Then, he threw his rock as well.
Indeed, Yue Nu had thrown his stone a bit further.
Shen Shijiu couldn’t accept this. He began to search even more carefully, and was practically lying on the ground.
But he searched for a long time and couldn’t find a suitable rock. Instead, a pair of black boots suddenly appeared in front of him.
Shen Shijiu lifted his head, and saw Pei Zheng, who was looking down at him with gentle eyes.
He was so happy that he suddenly stood up, “Why are you here? Are you coming with us?”
Pei Zheng retied his loose hair and smiled as he nodded.
“That’s great! My Lord can go boating with us, and you can come to the villa in the middle of the river too!”
Shen Shijiu’s little face brightened with cheer as he grabbed Pei Zheng’s cuff and wiggled it back and forth. He looked behind Pei Zheng, but he didn’t see Cheng Feng.
“My Lord, where’s A-Feng? He’s not coming with us?”
“He… went to the palace.”
“Oh,” Shen Shijiu nodded, “A-Feng went to the palace to look for Imperial Physician Jiang.”
Pei Zheng tapped a finger against his forehead, “Who told you that?”
Shen Shijiu looked toward Shen Huan, before he whispered, “Shifu said, A-Feng and Imperial Physician Jiang…”
He was interrupted before he could finish the rest of his sentence.
Someone behind them suddenly yelled, “We’re leaving, my father’s asking you to come over.”
The one who had called out to them was Lord Wei’s daughter. Her name was Wei Yiren; she was the most attractive out of all of the maidens present today. She was eighteen years old; an elegant, well-mannered girl.
“Mm.” Pei Zheng glanced at her.
Wei Yiren smiled shyly before she left.
There were already many small boats moored at the edge of the lake. They would have to take these boats to a larger ship, before that ship would sail toward the villa in the heart of the lake.
Those lords and their families hadn’t boarded the boats yet; they were standing on the shore, waiting for Pei Zheng.
When she saw Pei Zheng walking over, Wei Yiren tugged lightly at Lord Wei’s sleeve, and Lord Wei gave her a look.
He had been planning to set his daughter up with Zhao Litang. Who would have guessed that Wei Yiren would actually take a fancy to Pei Zheng? Hadn’t she heard the gossip that Pei Zheng liked men? She was still so stubborn about him.
“Lord Pei,” Lord Wei said courteously, “We’ll have to take these boats to the pleasure-boat, my apologies for the inconvenience.”
Pei Zheng smiled in a seemingly good-natured way, “Whatever you say, Lord Wei.”
Lord Wei never expected Pei Zheng to be so cooperative. He devised the seating arrangement in the boats with his own motives in mind.
Indeed, he put Zhao Litang and Wei Yiren in the same boat, along with the very harmless-looking Shen Shijiu.
Shen Huan and Wu Quan had been placed in another boat. And because Pei Zheng had only brought one servant with him, Yue Nu was added into his group.
Everyone boarded their assigned boats.
Pei Zheng stood at the front of the boat. It was rocking slightly in the lake, but he stood firmly.
Yue Nu also boarded the boat that Pei Zheng was in. He wasn’t acquainted with Pei Zheng; he had only seen him that one time at Yi Pin Xiang.
And Yue Nu felt that this Lord Pei looked too cold, so cold that it was terrifying. He couldn’t fathom how Shi could be so close with him.
After everyone had boarded the boats, the boats began to move, heading toward the large pleasure-boat docked not far away.
Yue Nu had been sitting quietly, leaned against the side of the boat. Pei Zheng’s back was to him as he stood at the front of the boat; who knew what he was looking at.
The boat was going quite fast, and one could see some of the fish in the water.
Yue Nu screamed, and suddenly stood up.
A fat black fish had suddenly jumped out of the water, and had actually flopped right onto Yue Nu’s leg. Yue Nu had never seen such a large fish before, and was rather startled.
But he had stood up too fast; the boat began to teeter. Yue Nu couldn’t stand properly; the moment his body leaned backward, he began to fall toward the water.
He closed his eyes in a panic, but his lapel over his chest was suddenly grabbed. His body hung in the air over the side of the boat; he hadn’t actually fallen into the icy lake.
Yue Nu’s eyes fluttered open, and saw Pei Zheng, who was gripping his clothes. But he was looking at him with interest, and hadn’t pulled him back onto the boat.
Pei Zheng lifted his eyelids and glanced toward the side. Indeed, the boy’s scream had attracted the attention of the people on the other boats, including Zhao Litang.
“What’s your name?”
“Yue, Yue Nu.”
“What’s your relationship with Zhao Litang?”
Yue Nu’s gaze darted to the side, and happened to meet with Zhao Litang’s not far away. He hurriedly looked down, “The general saved my life.”
The corners of Pei Zheng’s lips hooked, “You like him?”
Yue Nu hurriedly shook his head, “No, I just want to repay the general. I don’t dare to have such delusional desires.”
Pei Zheng pulled him up a bit, so that they were a little closer to each other, before he chuckled, “What if, they weren’t delusional desires?”
Yue Nu looked him in confusion, not understanding what he meant.
“Do you get cold easily?”
“Then close your eyes.”
The moment Pei Zheng finished speaking, his grip suddenly loosened.
Yue Nu felt his body rapidly fall backward. His eyes widened in shock, before he hurriedly shut them again.
With a splash, a figure fell heavily into the lake.
It was freezing, and one could only imagine how icy-cold the water was. If someone fell in and didn’t get out quickly, they would immediately be frozen stiff.
Those in the other boats had all seen Pei Zheng holding that little servant above the water, but they thought that Pei Zheng had accidentally lost his grip, which was why the servant had fallen in.
No one would be willing to jump in to save him. He was just a servant. If he could climb back out on his own, it would be due to his good fortune. But if he couldn’t, he could only blame his own cruel fate.
As soon as the boy fell in, Zhao Litang immediately grabbed the side of the boat and gazed at Pei Zheng in anger. His eyes were full of suspicion and disbelief; perhaps the others couldn’t tell, but he knew that Pei Zheng had definitely let go of the boy on purpose earlier.
Pei Zheng didn’t try to evade his stare. He was wagering, wagering that Zhao Litang’s feelings toward this boy were different.
“A-Yue!” Shen Shijiu also saw Yue Nu fall into the lake. He hurriedly leaned over the side of the boat, and yelled at the surface of the lake, “A-Yue! A-Yue, where are you?!”
After Yue Nu fell into the lake, he began to sink downward. He couldn’t even thrash around; his limbs were instantly soaked in the icy water, and his entire body went numb from the cold. He couldn’t move at all.
Everything around him was dark. Yue Nu felt his strength being torn out of him bit by bit. He was too cold, so cold that he wanted to close his eyes and sink to the bottom of the lake. He didn’t fear the cold at all, but this kind of overwhelming, freezing coldness seemed more deadly than any of the cold winters he had suffered through in the past. Lord Pei must have wanted to kill him. No, that wasn’t it. Lord Pei just didn’t save him.
Only the general had saved him before…
The general. Yue Nu seemed to see Zhao Litang. He swam toward him, and a strong arm grabbed him by the waist, before he swam toward the surface with Yue Nu in tow.
They had finally returned to the surface of the lake. After breathing in the cold, fresh air, Yue Nu suddenly took a gulping breath, and water poured into his mouth. He began to cough uncontrollably.
Zhao Litang dragged him along as he swam toward the nearest boat.
When he had jumped into the river earlier, he wasn’t thinking about much. But he began to think; how could the child he saved after he almost died of poisoning be frozen to death so easily?
That child must live.
He swam to the side of the boat, and the people in it hurriedly helped to pull Yue Nu, who had choked on too much water, onto the boat. Zhao Litang was still floating in the cold water. He first hauled Yue Nu onto the boat, before he held onto the side of it and was about to climb on as well.
Another hand reached out over the side of the boat. It was long and slender, stretched out toward Zhao Litang, pretending to want to help him up.
Zhao Litang lifted his head, and saw the instigator of this entire issue smiling down at him. It was as though he was quite amused seeing him in this sorry state.
Zhao Litang actually placed his hand onto the other’s palm, but he didn’t let Pei Zheng help him onto the boat. Instead, he took advantage of the fact that Pei Zheng had let his guard down, and pulled him straight into the lake.
With a splash, as droplets of water flew upward, someone else stood up on the boat.
Zhao Litang stood at the front of the boat, and glanced at Pei Zheng, who was in the water. He felt that his mood had improved somewhat, so he ignored Pei Zheng, and went to check on the unconscious boy.
Although Pei Zheng’s limbs were numb after falling into the water, for some reason, he didn’t seem angry at all. In fact, he looked to be in a good mood.
The actions of these two had frightened the occupants of the boat next to them. Lord Qian and Lord Wei had broken into a cold sweat.
One of them was the illustrious Great General of Zhenyuan, whose outstanding military achievements were honorable and meritorious. The other was the incredibly powerful Prime Minister of the current dynasty; if anything happened to the two of them, no one would be able to explain themselves.
“My Lord! My Lord!”
Shen Shijiu was slumped over the side of the boat, and carefully stretched his hand out to close the short distance between him and Pei Zheng. “My Lord! Hurry up and get out of there! Give me your hand, I’ll pull you up!” Pei Zheng reached out to Shen Shijiu, and that warm little hand gripped his frozen palm.
Although it was only a little warmth, Pei Zheng felt his entire body thaw a bit. He smiled at Shen Shijiu. After he swam to the side of the boat, he simply hauled himself back onto it.
Shen Shijiu opened his arms and was about to hug Pei Zheng, but Pei Zheng tapped his forehead, pushing him away.
“Don’t come over here. I’ll get you wet.”
“But my Lord, aren’t you cold?”
Shen Shijiu’s little face was full of worry. The water was so cold, and His Lordship’s complexion didn’t look right, “I’ll warm you up.”
“Lord Pei, are you all right?” Wei Yiren also seemed to be very worried about Pei Zheng, and said to the boatman, “Go a little faster, let’s hurry toward the pleasure-boat.”
The boatman hurriedly picked up the pace.
The other boat began to go faster as well. These two boats were heading toward the pleasure-boat at a much faster speed than the others.
Yue Nu, who was on the other boat, still had his eyes closed. He wasn’t moving at all, his face was pale, and even the crescent at the side of his eye had also faded and turned pale. He seemed lifeless.
Zhao Litang continued to press his hands against his body, but it was no use.
“General, when someone has fallen into the water, you have to do this…”
After the boatman finished explaining, Zhao Litang’s expression changed.
“Will that… work?”
“It will. If you don’t believe me, just try it. It would be best to be quick. If it’s stuck in there for too long, it’s more likely that something bad could happen to the boy.”
Zhao Litang reached out, and gently squeezed Yue Nu’s cheeks in his hand. He followed the boatman’s instructions; he laid Yue Nu flat on his back, and pried his mouth open slightly.
He leaned down, getting closer and closer to the person beneath him. The tips of their noses had touched.
There were still water droplets hanging on his long lashes, like strings of crystal-clear beads.
Zhao Litang took a a gulp of air, and pressed his lips downward, before he blew a breath into that slightly open mouth. The feeling on his lips was so soft; it was something that he had never felt before.
After he blew in several breaths of air, the person below him suddenly began to cough, and spat out all the water that was stuck in his throat.
Zhao Litang hurriedly straightened up.
Yue Nu blinked, and slowly opened his eyes. All he could see was a vast stretch of white, as the water droplets clinging to his lashes rolled down.
After taking a few breaths, Yue Nu slowly returned to his senses. Only then did he see that the person beside him really was Zhao Litang.
His eyes went warm, and he immediately began to cry. But he still didn’t dare to sob loudly; he could only whimper softly, and lift his arm to cover his eyes as his tears flowed down.
Zhao Litang saw that the boy had begun to cry like this the moment he woke up, and knew that he had been badly frightened.
“It’s all right now. After we get on the boat, you can change into clean clothes. Don’t cry.”
Yue Nu was still sobbing quietly. He held back his tears and nodded.
The general had saved him again. Just what could he do to repay this kindness?
They finally arrived at the side of the pleasure-boat. It was quite large, and there many rooms on board, along with numerous servants.
Pei Zheng and Shen Shijiu were the first to board the pleasure-boat. A few servants hurriedly brought a cloak for Pei Zheng to wear over his shoulders, before they led the pair to the rooms inside.
After walking a few steps, he realized that the person behind him hadn’t followed.
Pei Zheng held his hand out to Shen Shijiu, who was still standing in place. Shen Shijiu didn’t hesitate to walk up to him and grab his palm, before he allowed Pei Zheng to lead him inside.
Wei Yiren was also worried about Pei Zheng, and she had followed them inside as well. She walked for a bit, before she was suddenly stopped by Shen Shijiu.
“Miss Wei, His Lordship is changing. You can’t go inside.”
After he finished speaking, Shen Shijiu turned and walked into Pei Zheng’s room, and was about to close the door.
Wei Yiren asked, “Then how come you’re allowed in there?”
Shen Shijiu looked at her in confusion, “Because I’m a boy.”
Wei Yiren was stunned, and watched as the door was shut in her face.
The reason she was so worried was because Shen Shijiu was a boy!
After Zhao Litang boarded the boat, several servants also led him inside.
“Where’s the boy who got soaked?”
“General Zhao, are you asking about that little servant? He went to the servants’ quarters, down there.”
“Down there? Is there a charcoal fire?”
“Naturally, there isn’t.”
Zhao Litang’s footsteps paused. Without a fire, how could someone whose entire body had been frozen warm themselves up?
He had already reached his quarters. As soon as he opened the door, Zhao Litang felt a rush of hot air. The fires in every room had been stoked, and they were very warm.
The servant who had led him here was about to leave.
Zhao Litang suddenly said, “Bring him to my room.”
Yue Nu was already thoroughly frozen. He wasn’t like Pei Zheng and Zhao Litang, who had internal energy to protect themselves. All he had was this thin little body.
After he fell into the icy water, he would probably get sick even if he took care of himself, let alone if he was stuck in this little room where the cold wind could still penetrate.
His entire body was tingling, and he couldn’t muster any strength in his fingers. It was like they didn’t belong to him; Yue Nu tried to untie his soaked robe, and had only undone his collar after struggling for a long while.
“Hey, don’t take your clothes off yet. Come with me.” Someone knocked on the door and said to the person inside.
Yue Nu didn’t know what had happened. He hurriedly grabbed an armful of clean clothes and followed the servant.
After passing through the deck and walking into the pleasure-boat, it was already much warmer.
Yue Nu’s clothes were still dripping with water. He lowered his head and walked carefully. Since his legs were numb from the cold, he staggered a bit.
They finally stopped in front of a room. The servant was knocking on the door. Yue Nu obedientlystood at the side with his head lowered.
After the door opened, the warm air inside drifted out, so cozy and comfortable that one would want nothing more than to charge into the room.
“You can leave now.”
Zhao Litang waved his hand. The servant responded and left. Only Yue Nu stood at the side of the narrow aisle, holding a pile of clothes with his head bowed.
Zhao Litang said abruptly, before he turned and walked into the room.
Yue Nu lifted his head, and stared blankly at the warm, steamy room in front of him.
He… could go in?
“Close the door.”
Yue Nu moved, slowly, and cautiously walked into the room, before he gently closed the door.
TANGYUE ALREADY HAD A CPR KISS BUT CHENGBAI IS STILL- I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT POINT THEY’RE ATTTTTTT ARGGHHHHH
Anyways, apologies for the inconvenience, but I’ve started an additional course outside of my classes that is in my field of study, so uploads *might* slow down a bit, but I’ll do my best to get chapters out on time!
Thanks for reading~
1.This is a line from the poem of the same name, by the Tang Dynasty poet, Liu Zongyuan. The poem (I think) describes the lonely scenery around a fisherman as he fishes.
2. One day, I’ll find a better way to word this. Junshan is an island, and this ‘silver plate’ refers to Dongting Lake, which is shaped like an oval.