Joyful Reunion - Chapter 108
Book 3, Chapter 24 (Part 3)
It is nighttime, and they’re surrounded by darkness save for a single lamp hanging on the pier swaying gently in the breeze above the river.
One wave after another lands upon the river shore. Lang Junxia and Zheng Yan each hide behind a reef, staring at the wooden pier from afar.
At the very end of the pier lies a small cloth wrapped bundle.
Zheng Yan’s face abruptly breaks out in a smile. “I suddenly get this feeling that Wang Shan’s way of speaking reminds me of a certain someone.”
Lang Junxia doesn’t make a sound and continues to stare silently at the pier with his arms crossed. It’s been more than half an hour, but no one has come to pick up the bundle.
Once this has been said, the two of them each fall into silence again like a couple of wooden statues.
Suddenly, out of the river comes a drenched man. He presses one hand against the ground, and with the other pulls the bundle towards himself underwater.
Zheng Yan and Lang Junxia both seem startled before they fly towards it, but by then it’s already too late. That figure has once more dived into the river. With a slide of his feet Zheng Yan slips into the water, while Lang Junxia runs along the shore after him.
Inside the Bouquet Pavilion.
Scene after scene of the past flash past before Cai Yan and Duan Ling’s eyes.
Both of them seem to have returned to that spring where the peach blossoms were blooming; returned to the days of passing each other by in the Illustrious Hall, crossing their arms in front of them, nodding and greeting the other; returned to the night when they learned martial arts from Li Jianhong together, going through the motions of the Sword of the Realm; returned to the days where there was wailing everywhere as the city fell, blood running through the streets.
Cai Yan has returned to the moment he ripped away the white cloth covering his brother’s body, when his eyes were filled with fear and helplessness.
Fear pours out of Cai Yan’s body, making him so nervous that his stomach convulses, so nervous that he knocks over the empty cup in front of him.
All Duan Ling is doing is looking back at him, calm and quiet as the fear in Cai Yan grows with every passing moment as though the person sitting in front of him is a retaliatory ghost come to take his life, carrying with it the late Li Jianhong’s staggering fury and the condemnation of all of Great Chen.
He’s scared. Duan Ling has realised that as well — what’s he so scared of?
Duan Ling finds it all quite hilarious suddenly, as he realises where Cai Yan’s fear is coming from. It can’t be Duan Ling that he’s afraid of, but his dad. To think someone would be afraid of a dead man; his father’s power to intimidate seems not to have dissipated just because he’d fallen in battle, but instead had gone to lie low somewhere they couldn’t see — like a sharp knife that’s stabbed into Cai Yan’s soul, nailing him onto a memorial stele.
“Your Highness, please,” Duan Ling says smilingly, giving Wu Du a nudge with his elbow.
The literati trailing at Cai Yan’s side says frostily, “How gracious.”
Wu Du picks up his jug, and the literati picks up a jug as well. They each pour a cup of wine for the young man next to them.
Wu Du collects himself and says to Cai Yan, “Your Highness, this is my adoptive son, Wang Shan.”
“Wang … Wang Shan.” Cai Yan says in a trembling voice, “So it’s you.”
“I will drink this on His Highness’s behalf,” the literati says.
Since Duan Ling is the one who offered the wine, the literati thus knock back the drink for Cai Yan.
They’re both into a state of prolonged silence lasting so long that even the literati is starting to notice something is amiss. He asks Cai Yan, “Is Your Highness not feeling well?”
All Cai Yan wants to do is leave this place as quickly as he can. He forces himself to say, “It was too windy, and it’s given me a bit of a … stomachache.”
Oh how difficult must it be for you to have to come up with an excuse at a time like this, Duan Ling thinks. The anger he felt since the moment he laid eyes on Cai Yan has overpowered his reasoning, and all he wants to do is say more to provoke him, but as he’s about to start talking again, there’s suddenly a loud commotion outside.
“Don’t let him get away!” It’s Zheng Yan’s voice.
Duan Ling’s mind goes blank for a moment before the first thought comes to him, Amga is back! Without giving his mind time to pause, there’s another loud crash as Amga crashes right through the railing and drops right down to their floor. Wu Du and that literati are each busy protecting the one they’re trying to protect, and pull away from each other in two groups. Wu Du decisively draws his sword.
In the next instant, another person is turning over in the air, sending the screen flying with a kick. The screen flies right at Amga, shattering with a loud impact into dust.
Duan Ling retreats again and again, shielded behind Wu Du, and moves farther from Cai Yan. Then Amga grabs Cai Yan and kicks the literati away, putting his blade across Cai Yan’s neck.
The one who’d kicked the screen away would be Lang Junxia, with the drenched-through Zheng Yan following him closely behind. When they notice that Cai Yan has been captured, there is terror on both their faces.
“Tell us what you want,” Lang Junxia says. “Don’t waste any more time.”
Amga could never have expected to find himself a big fish such as this one after falling down the stairs. Only once his opponent started speaking did he notice that the hostage he grabbed is the crown prince of Great Chen, and he breaks into a smile.
“Interesting,” Amga says, “So it’s you, huh.”
Amga does a trick with his sabre, its edge dazzling in the lamplight, and Cai Yan stops breathing. Everyone is staring at Amga’s sabre-wielding hand, while Cai Yan is staring right at Duan Ling’s eyes.
“You tell me what the terms are,” Amga says, “We’re all smart people.”
Silence takes over the room and no one dares say anything; to their surprise it’s Duan Ling who eventually speaks first.
“Everyone stay back. Zheng Yan, go get him three horses. Is Khatanbaatar still here? Bring him down here and put him on a horse.”
Lang Junxia and Zheng Yan share a look. Zheng Yan nods at him, and he heads outside to get the horses ready.
Meanwhile, Lang Junxia has realised that Duan Ling and Cai Yan have already met face to face. He seems startled at first, then apprehensively he turns to Cai Yan to signal that he shouldn’t worry; he can take care of it.
“You,” Amga says to Wu Du, “move over there. Keep your distance.”
Wu Du and Duan Ling decide to simply move aside and enjoy the show.
Duan Ling turns over many ideas in his head, and there are a lot of things he’d like to say, but he ends up saying none of them.
Within a short while, footsteps are approaching again as another man runs into the room. “Your High— What’s going on?!”
That man is Chang Liujun, and he comprehends the situation as soon as he sees what’s going on inside the Bouquet Pavilion. Amga shouts an order, “All of you, get out!”
And so everyone backs out of the room. Lang Junxia looks between Cai Yan and Duan Ling, as though hesitating. Amga though just hurries him, “Move it!”
Everyone slowly backs out of the room.
They’re all staying quiet, and Duan Ling can basically guess what happened — Zheng Yan and Lang Junxia were waiting at the pier, and they ran into Amga when he went there to get the stuff. Once he got the bundle he must have come back into the city at top speed, running across the roofs to get into the Bouquet Pavilion, and when Lang Junxia and Zheng Yan were about to apprehend him, Amga finally got desperate.
“The horses are ready.” Zheng Yan comes in. “Let him go.”
All of the four great assassins are present, with Amga and the Cai Yan he captured on one side, and Duan Ling on the other side with Wu Du, Lang Junxia, Chang Liujun and Zheng Yan behind him.
Duan Ling thinks to himself, how lucky of you, Cai Yan. If you’re killed right now this will be a terrible mess to have to clean up.
“Is Khatanbaatar here?” Duan Ling says.
“Escort him out of the city,” Duan Ling says under his breath. “General Xie is on guard at the city gates, so he can’t get out on his own. We’ll take the lead, come on.”
The Bouquet Pavilion isn’t far from the city gate. They walk for a short while with Duan Ling and the four assassins leading the way, while Amga rides on the same horse as Cai Yan, trailing the group from far behind.
“We’re staking all of our lives on you,” Zheng Yan says, “if we can’t get His Highness back, we’ll just have to make a run for it and become fugitives.”
Duan Ling though would be rather glad for Amga to kidnap Cai Yan to the north; at any rate Batu would take care of him well enough. If the crown prince of their country is so simply kidnapped just like that, however, he has no idea how they’re going to explain it to Li Yanqiu. Getting rid of his opponent may only make his life more difficult.
This chapter is scrapped from readlightnovel.org
Duan Ling turns back to glance at them as Chang Liujun asks the other three, “What happened?”
“I have no idea,” Duan Ling replies. “I was drinking at the Bouquet Pavilion.”
“I have no idea either,” Wu Du replies. “I was also drinking at the Bouquet Pavilion.”
“Amga came to pick up the bundle in person.” Zheng Yan is still all wet, his robe plastered onto his body. “He ran so fast we lost sight of him in an instant.”
Lang Junxia doesn’t make a peep, but this does verify Duan Ling’s theory.
“And what did you come here for?” Duan Ling asks Chang Liujun.
“The young master asked me to come apologise to His Highness,” Chang Liujun replies. “He couldn’t come tonight.”
“Are you alright?” Duan Ling has noticed that there’s blood seeping out of Zheng Yan’s arm, but Zheng Yan waves off his concern.
The five of them have already made it to the city gates. Lang Junxia produces the plaque hanging by his waist and shows it to the Black Armours guarding the city. “We need to leave the city on Eastern Palace business.”
Duan Ling borrows a set of bow and quiver from the soldiers.
Zheng Yan and Lang Junxia had just left the city earlier, so the soldiers are not going to bother with checking them. Then they ask, “What about those people behind you?”
“They’re with us,” Lang Junxia replies.
Amga escorts Cai Yan and keeps a distance of several dozen paces between them and the assassins, unwilling to get any closer.
Duan Ling says, “Wuluohou Mu, go get a boat ready for him.”
Lang Junxia leaves to get a boat, and so everyone waits for him to come back.
“I need to go relieve myself.” Duan Ling retreats into the darkness, winding his way to the shore. Wu Du follows him.
Duan Ling rips a small strip of cloth off his robe, and writes the words “May this letter find you well” onto it with a charcoal stick. He ties the cloth onto an arrow, and sliding the arrow under his sleeve, he returns to the harbour.
“Place Khatanbaatar on the boat,” Duan Ling adds.
The literati has also followed them out of the city, standing at a distance; he looks at one group and the other, wondering who Duan Ling could be that all four great assassins are perfectly willing to take his orders without question.
Amga sneers, “Sure enough, you’re the only smart person here.”
Duan Ling thinks to himself, if you really want him, the crown prince’s all yours, keep the change, but he says, “Go on, board the boat.”
“Wait a second!” Zheng Yan says, sounding panicked, “What do you mean? Get him back!”
Amga takes Cai Yan onto the boat with him; Lang Junxia and Zheng Yan run several steps after them. Chang Liujun says, “No way, Wang Shan. Don’t you mess with me.”
Heh, scared you, thinks Duan Ling, and as soon as Amga’s pole hits the water and the boat’s about to leave, Duan Ling shouts, “After him!”
Amga immediately kicks Cai Yan into the water. At the same time, Lang Junxia, who has chased them to the edge of the dock, stops in his tracks, but Zheng Yan is throwing himself into the water again.
Duan Ling knew Amga would kick Cai Yan into the water to buy himself time; he was never worried that Amga would actually take Cai Yan with him.
Yet after the great splash as Zheng Yan dived into the water to save Cai Yan, Amga is yelling this at them from the already distant boat, “Your crown prince is a fake —! You’ve all been fooled!”
Duan Ling stares at him speechlessly. Wu Du, Lang Junxia, Chang Liujun, as well as the literati who’s run up to them all look horrified. Even Duan Ling never expected for Amga to yell it out just like that!
Momentarily distracted, Duan Ling only remembers the arrow now. He immediately fires the arrow, and it flies like a shooting star into the dark, but he has no idea whether it’s buried itself into the boat or if it’s fallen into the river.
Another moment passes before Zheng Yan crawls out of the river with the soaked Cai Yan in his arms. Lang Junxia and Chang Liujun both rush up to check on Cai Yan. “Are you alright, Your Highness?”
Duan Ling gives Wu Du a nudge to tell him he should go and at least put on a show of caring. Wu Du can but go to them and check Cai Yan’s pulse.
“Your Highness,” Duan Ling replies, “apologies if I’ve offended you. It’s all my fault, truly.”
Cai Yan doesn’t even have the strength left to speak anymore, and waves the apology off, looking quite wretched.
The literati leads a horse over to them and says, “Your Highness, I’ll take you back to the palace.”
Cai Yan says weakly, “All of you … all of you …”
“Your Highness?” The literati says.
“Feng Duo,” Zheng Yan says, “do take His Highness back at once. Don’t let him catch a cold now.”
“I’ll be returning as well,” says Lang Junxia.