Chapter 777: Monarch and Subject
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
On noon of the seventh day, Ye Qingxuan saw a dark outline appear on the horizon. The dense pack of pedestrians and carriages walked on both sides of the dirt road, regarding the figure curiously.
The Empire of Aurora’s traffic was structured better than Ye Qingxuan would have thought. There was a courier station every 50 miles. The roads were wide, with more than enough room for five carriages. And the roads were flat, with some places even being paved with slab stones. There were no shortcomings other than the fact that an average person could not walk on it.
Even in the prosperous parts of the country the road was still empty as the flow of people wound around both sides of it.
They came and went just like they were making a visit.
When they saw Ye Qingxuan’s white hair, they looked away in respect. For some reason, some people pointed fingers at Bai Heng riding in the prison cart from afar, unsure if that was the regent who had once had power over the court and the commons, and unsure of what had happened to him.
The news of Bai Heng’s surrender had been nearly sealed off. They had remained vigilant, and only a few people knew who it was that had come here.
The Ninth Heaven Tower was in sight.
Outside the capital was already a dazzlingly prosperous area. It would be better to say that the people and structures there surpassed expectations and were not ordinary in the least.
The people coming and going on the street were mostly black-haired. They rarely saw a noble of the Dragon Bloodlines.
The closer they got, the stronger Ye Qingxuan’s heartbeat became.
It was not until they reached Baizhang Gate that he remembered the familiar feeling within his tingling sensation.
“Is this feeling?” Bai Heng smiled at him. Up until now, Ye Qingxuan had not realized why there were so many people outside the city. It wasn’t that they liked being outside, they just couldn’t be inside.
The Iron of Decay.
Ye Qingxuan felt the tingling sensation of the Iron of Decay. Even though the city gate was still far away, the feeling was still clear enough. For the citizens of the Empire of Aurora, their ability to resist the Iron of Decay was far less than that of nobles of the Dragon Bloodlines, and there were limits to it.
Even within the city, the citizens probably wouldn’t go as far as the central city.
In the centuries of rule by the Nine Families of the Dragon Bloodline, although there had been eras of wisdom and honesty, there had been no shortage of tyranny and stupidity. It wasn’t that the common folk had never resisted, but the ones controlling everything had after all been the nobles of the dragon bloodline.
Ordinary citizens who stepped through the palace gates might as well arrange their funeral affairs, not to mention those who tried to sit on the throne. Even with tens of thousands of troops, it would be no use if they could not enter the capital.
Moreover, the defensive troops and palace servants almost all had deva ancestry, and had inherited something from their ancestors to some extent. In the face of devas who held ultimate power, tens of thousands of soldiers were nothing more than mud chickens and clay dogs.
The nearly infinite Iron of Decay guarded the control and secrets of the Devas. It was a highly toxic substance to others. At that moment, Ye Qingxuan felt as carefree as a stranded fish placed back into water.
It was like a traveller who had been parched by the dry desert wind had returned to his home by the sea.
And there was something else that brightened his mood that had been dark and gloomy for the past few days.
She was here.
Ye Qingxuan rode through the corridor under the gate, and stared at the palace in the distance.
Bai Xi was here.
After being apart for so long, he did not know how she was doing now.
He was suddenly a little flustered. He didn’t know how Bai Xi was. He didn’t know if she was okay or not. He didn’t know what he should say after he saw her.
Soon his thoughts were interrupted.
Behind him, the eunuch he had greeted that morning covered the prison cart in white silk, and another person walked up.
“Please allow me to escort you the rest of the way and then we can report back to the palace.” He bowed respectuflly. “Tomorrow Her Majesty is holding a welcome feast for you at Changle Palace, and she invites you to stay the night.”
Ye Qingxuan looked at him silently. He said nothing.
The eunuch’s smile stiffened, and he bowed a few degrees lower. Sweat dripped from his forehead onto the ground.
“These days there are some things that I want to understand, and I’m growing tired of Her Majesty.” Ye Qingxuan looked at him from on the horse. “I helped her hold Heaven’s Gate, helped her bring Bai Heng back. I’ve shown her respect, and I hope she can do the same to me. So, go back and tell her that I don’t have time to wait until tomorrow. This evening. If I don’t see Bai Xi this evening, I’ll go to the palace to find her myself.”
The eunuch kneeled. He got ready to say something, but Ye Qingxuan turned the horse by the reins and left.
After an hour, a eunuch bearing an imperial order rushed to Ye Qingxuan’s residence and knocked on the door.”
Ye Qingxuan got an answer that was satisfactory to him.
Ye Qingxuan lay back in his bed and stared at the outline of the palace outside his window. He unconsciously rubbed his thumb against his forefinger on the mark that the Jiu Xiao Huan Pei had left behind. For some reason he had suddenly felt relief. He was glad that he still had a bit of time.
Time enough to let him think about it in detail…
What should he say when he saw her?
In the depths of the palace, amidst the pagodas and pavilions, a eunuch stepped out of the inner chambers and stepped on to the jade steps. He announced the man who was kneeling down, “Presenting Bai Heng, Your Majesty.”
Below the steps, Bai Heng, who was held by Jin Wuwei, did not move. He seemed not to hear. He just kept his head down and looked at the shackles around his wrists. He raised his brow slightly.
After a moment of silence, the eunuch pointed at the shackles and ordered Jin Wuwei, “Get rid of those unsightly things.”
Jin Wuwei hesitated for a moment, but at the urging of the eunuch he undid the shackles and took a step back.
“Please come with me, Duke Bai. Don’t keep Her Majesty waiting.” The eunuch smiled and turned around as he led the way. “You know the palace rules better than me. I just beg that you take pity on me and not make Her Majesty angry again. Things are different now, if you make trouble now it may not go well for you.”
“Yes, indeed. Things are different now.” Bai Heng sighed and glanced at the eunuch. “A dog like you dares to speak up to me.”
The eunuch’s smile hardened.
Bai Heng passed the eunuch and walked straight into the inner chambers. Candles on both sides of the space shone a dim light, illuminating the gorgeous decorations on top of the pillars through the soft gauze. In one corner of the room stood a dressing table that was completely out of place in this majestic and noble palace.
In front of the mirror was a woman with long hair draped over her shoulders, like she had just woken from a nap. She looked up with sleepy eyes at Bai Heng’s reflection in the mirror, and her slender eyes widened slightly.
“Long time no see. Your elegant demeanor is still the same, not changed from all those years ago.” The Empress nodded slightly. “Very good.”
“Long time no see?” Bai Heng thought for a bit, then nodded. “Ah yes.”
“It’s been almost have a year, no?”
He shook his head and sighed. He did not kowtow. He just casually bowed. “Disgraced minister Bai Heng, here to see Your Majesty. I wish Your Majesty long life, and health to…”
No one answered.
Bai Heng sighed, rose, and walked towards the Empress with light steps.
In the corner, the eunuch bowed deeply. He did not dare to look, he just crawled backwards and closed the door from the outside.
“I thought Your Majesty had something to say to me.” Bai Heng stood behind the Empress, and looked at her closely as she did her makeup.
“Can’t you be a little quieter?” The Empress stared at herself in the mirror. She disinterestedly put down the brush that she had been painting her eyebrows with.
“It seems like I came at a bad time.” Bai Heng reached out and took the comb. He walked behind the Empress and combed her white hair. Her white hair was like silver as it slid between the teeth of the comb.
Just like so many times before, Bai Heng combed her hair familiarly. He coiled it up and pulled a jade pin from the table and stroked the sharp, cool pin gently across the Empress’s slender neck.
Finally, he put it in her hair.
It was either a failed assassination or a great success.
“Come on, take some rouge!”
Bai Heng bowed with satisfaction as he looked at the Empress closely in the mirror. “Unfortunately, though sick plums may be good, they are not suitable for humans. Your Majesty is in her prime. You should not always stay up so late. You are growing pale. That is not good.”
The Empress glanced at him indifferently. “Maybe if you didn’t bother me I would look better?”
Bai Heng smiled, and blew on the Empress’s ear as he whispered, “I just want to see what you look like when you get angry.”
Her indifference wavered slightly. Her brow creased imperceptibly.
Bai Heng nodded with satisfaction.
“It’s such a pity that only criminals like me can see this side of you…” He held the Empress’s shoulder and whispered, “Someone so beautiful as Your Majesty, were she born into a common family, would surely already be married by now.” He did not say this like an experienced and astute regent would. He did not seem that old, and there was still a bit of licentiousness about him.
“Why force yourself?”
He lifted his finger and stroked it across her glamorous and majestic face. His eyes were full of pity. “The imperial seal is too heavy. May I help you bear it? I will reorganize the Empire of Aurora for you. All you have to do is sit in that chair as the eternal wise ruler. With this harmony between monarch and subject, could we not defeat any challenge?”
Zap! A line of electricity shot out from Bai Heng’s fingertips, burning his careless fingers.
Bai Heng’s expression did not change. He merely shook his head, waved his fingers that could not feel anymore, and did not say anything more.
The Empress rose from the mirror.
“It’s so boring talking in here. Come for a walk with me.”
“By your command.” Bai Heng bowed. There was no impatience or bitterness in his expression.
He waited quietly.
The Empress would arrange her own end.
He followed the Empress in silence. They passed through gate after gate as they silently marched along the path. Finally they came to a courtyard with the soothing, beautiful scenery. But it was guarded by Jin Wuwei, and it was difficult to get close.
There were more than a dozen white-haired devas sitting lazily within, reading, drinking, or making merry. The sound of stringed instruments and singing girls came from within.
When the Empress walked through the gate, all the sound came to an abrupt end.
Amid the noise of everyone kneeling, the Empress looked back at Bai Heng.
“Are you familiar with this?”
Bai Heng bent down and reached out to wipe the traces on the threshold. They came clearly into view. “After all, I was shut in here for more than ten years.”