Chapter 25 — Leng Yu Feng’s Solicitude
Night silently fell. On a mountain slope outside of the capital, Shang Wuxin was sitting motionless on a snow-white horse.
Accompanying her were a thousand soldiers and carriages loaded with grains. They had long been waiting. Everyone was wearing standard black attire, and under her command, even the flags1 had been taken down.
“Crown Prince, the provisions have already been sorted and tallied, and the soldiers are all present!” Leng Yu Feng arrived at the crown prince’s side.
Under the moonlight, one could discern that Leng Yu Feng’s whole body was clad in black, including a midnight cloak, his appearance handsome, with a pair of apathetic, inky irises and strict, thin, unsmiling lips. He emitted icy confidence that was as cold as snow.
Shang Wuxin nodded and at that moment, an official went to her and asked curiously, “Crown Prince, why must we embark at night time? And why are we not permitted to wear military clothes?” This official wasn’t the only one confused. The soldiers were too, so they all perked up their ears.
The man who had asked the question was about thirty years old, and his position was that of a vice minister’s. This man was Bai Shang Shu’s son, Bai Shaolin. His looks were ordinary, but he’d inherited his father’s righteous air.
Under his father’s instructions, he was accompanying the crown prince on this journey to the south. However, there was another reason for Bai Shaolin’s compliance—he wanted see for himself the prince his father had ever so passionately praised.
Noticing that a lot of the soldiers seemed to be looking at the grains in their carriages but was actually perking their ears, Shang Wuxin bluntly said, “This time, bengong is heading out to deliver provisions to the common people, not going out to amuse myself. There is no need for a grand send-off. By leaving at night, we can also catch those with ill intentions unawares. As for your clothes—military attire is very noticeable. If we wear them, wouldn’t that the same as asking for bandits to attack us?”
Certain parts of the mountainside inhabited bandits who were especially abhorrent to those from the capital. This was mainly due to the Imperial Court’s incompetence, which was usually the reason behind the bandits’ exiles.
Those from the Imperial Court had repeatedly been robbed to the last pin by said bandits, but if they changed their clothes, even if the bandits were to attack, the attack wouldn’t be as harsh as attacks driven by hatred.
Bai Shaolin suddenly understood the crown prince’s motives and promptly fell to his knees in front of Shang Wuxin.
“Crown Prince is wise! Chen2 was ignorant!” The other soldiers also looked at the crown prince with admiration. They’d heard that the crown prince was very wise, but when were rumors ever as true as reality? It turned out that the rumors were actually true!
Leng Yu Feng glanced at the crown prince as his heart filled with approval. If it had been him, he would’ve done the same too, but he’d only developed this kind of mindset through heavy experience in the battlefield.
It turned out that the crown prince, who’d grown up in the palace, was actually capable of such thorough thinking. Leng Yu Feng had to say, this crown prince was not someone the other princes could compare to.
Faced with the soldiers’ somewhat worshipping gazes, Shang Wuxin didn’t feel any self-satisfaction. She urged her horse forward, finally commencing the expedition, with vigorous troops in tow.
“Wait!” Suddenly, from behind them, hoof-steps sounded. She gripped her reins tightly and turned her head to see Huan Mo Che in a blue robe as he galloped quickly towards her.
With his masculine good looks and rare beauty, he looked undoubtedly like a well-groomed gongzi. There was a heartwarming smile on his face, and that smile elicited the feeling of caress by a spring breeze.
“Crown Prince, I want to go too!”
Shang Wuxin shot Leng Yu Feng a look. Their departure time was a confidential matter that only those accompanying would know, yet Huan Mo Che was informed of it, so it was likely that Leng Yu Feng was the one who had told him. Moreover, she was aware of the close friendship the two shared.
Noticing the crown prince’s expression, Leng Yu Feng couldn’t figure out why he immediately felt like evading his stare. He wasn’t oblivious to his best friend’s interest in the crown prince, so when Huan Mo Che incessantly asked about the journey, he had disclosed the information. Leng Yu Feng honestly didn’t think he did anything wrong.
Although he was a general, he was a noncommittal one, but today when he met the crown prince’s eyes, he suddenly wondered if he’d somehow committed a wrong.
Shang Wuxin knew that it was already too late to intervene. After all, Huan Mo Che was not an ordinary person—he was the capital’s top gongzi and someone even her fuhuang was courteous to. On top of that, she noticed Huan Mo Che had even taken out her fuhuang’s written consent.
Utterly helpless, she decided to not waste any more time, turned, and urged her horse onward. Huan Mo Che’s eyes flashed with delight before he quickly followed suit while Leng Yu Feng released a sigh and moved to keep up with the two.
Originally, everyone present believed the crown prince to be very delicate, since although he was a male, he was nonetheless a youth, and a pampered one at that. However, seeing him push on and cross the mountain with them, their respect for him once again rose.
When they came across a forest, Shang Wuxin and her two escorts stopped. They were in a rush, but they still needed to preserve their energy, lest they encounter unforeseen calamities.
“We’ll rest here!” Shang Wuxin got off her horse, and everyone else followed.
Leng Yu Feng went to check on the grains before returning to take a seat next to Shang Wuxin. Huan Mo Che situated himself at her unoccupied side.
Bai Shaolin came over to deliver a few wrapped bingzis3 and addressed them with a hint of embarrassment, “Crown Prince, General, Huan gongzi, there appears to be no animals in this forest, so we can only rely on these bingzis to appease our hunger.”
Bai Shaolin inwardly scolded himself for being inconsiderate. With General Leng, it was alright. General Leng was experienced in warfare and undoubtedly had seen bingzis numerous times before, but the crown prince and Huan gongzi… Bai Shaolin nervously peeked at the crown prince. The crown prince was someone Bai Shaolin greatly admired, so he was afraid of offending him.
Huan Mo Che looked at the hard bingzis and thought about how, although life at Taiji Estate was not extravagant, the meals there were still luxurious. More importantly, the crown prince’s body was thin and frail. Just thinking about it gave Huan Mo Che a heartache, but then he saw the crown prince readily take a bingzi and calmly started eating it.
The crown prince’s eating etiquette was very graceful, and his every move was an alluring one. It was as if he was holding a rare delicacy rather than a stiff cake, effectively stupefying those who were watching. After snapping out of their stupor, they felt particularly good about the prince.
Huan Mo Che saw that the crown prince seemed to have no complaints, so his heart also calmed a bit. He picked up a bingzi and started eating too, though he couldn’t help but sneakily glance at the crown prince from time to time.
Huan Mo Che believed that no matter what the crown prince did, his actions would look pleasing to the eye. This was the first time he was paying so much attention to someone.
Leng Yu Feng observed the way the crown prince placidly ate the bingzi while he began to approve even more. To think that a seemingly frail person like the crown prince would be so unpredictable. Leng Yu Feng suddenly felt that being the crown prince’s Grand Tutor4 wouldn’t be so bad.
Bai Shaolin, seeing that the crown prince did not mind their coarse food in the slightest, promptly understood why his father’s assessment of the prince was so high. Bai Shaolin decided that henceforth, his loyalty belonged to the crown prince’s faction5.
For many years, he’d refrained from joining any factions; it was either for one thing or another, or because none of the princes impressed him. But now, the crown prince was able to make Bai Shaolin willingly pledge his loyalty.
Everyone hastened to get some bingzis into their stomachs and then settled down to rest. A portion stayed behind on night duty.
Shang Wuxin stood up to leave but was stopped by Huan Mo Che’s inquiry, “Crown Prince, where are you going?”
“Just taking a walk. The journey ahead is long, so you two should rest early!” Shang Wuxin looked at Leng Yu Feng, who was getting ready to rise. “Rest assured. Bengong knows how far to go and when to stop.”
Although Leng Yu Feng and Huan Mo Che were both extremely anxious, they sat back down after meeting the crown prince’s honest eyes. Nevertheless, Leng Yu Feng still opened his mouth to say, “Crown Prince, please stay close by. We have many soldiers, but countless dangers lurk in this wilderness!”
Shang Wuxin nodded and left. She paid no heed to their worries.
“Yu Feng, you seem to care a lot about the crown prince!” Huan Mo Che queried, knowing that although his best friend was a general and naturally possessed a sense of responsibility, he was not necessarily benevolent.
Since Leng Yu Feng had opened his mouth to warn the crown prince, that meant he held concern for the prince.
However, Huan Mo Che didn’t want his best friend to show the crown prince interest, he…
Leng Yu Feng glanced at the abnormal look on his best friend’s face. “Aren’t you also very attentive to the prince? The crown prince’s character is outstanding. Moreover, we are the crown prince’s tutors. Paying attention to him is our duty! Yet, you seem to care too much about the crown prince.”
Despite saying that, Leng Yu Feng knew in his heart that he himself also cared a little more than usual about the crown prince.
Huan Mo Che raised a brow, and his expression reverted back to a gentle and warm one. He did not say any more because even he himself couldn’t fathom his own thoughts.
Shang Wuxin arrived at a lake and in a soft and refined voice, like the sound of ruffling bamboo, said: “You’ve already followed me for so long, why not come out?”
A man walked out from between the trees. He wore a red robe and had his black hair tied loosely behind his back, which defined his slender face even more. If one were to say that his arched brows gave him an air of haughtiness, then another could argue that the perfect curve of his nose completely dissolved the haughtiness.
“Ai, you discover me every time. Really, that’s not fun at all!” Han Xuan Hao walked to Shang Wuxin’s side. He looked at the figure next to him and felt a great deal of satisfaction, but seeing the youth’s height only reach up to his chest and his overly thin body, Han Xuan Hao abruptly felt unsatisfied.
The past few days, he’d been pondering over why he cared so much about the crown prince and why his feelings seemed to resemble romantic affection. That’s right–he was sure that he liked the crown prince. As for why, he didn’t know. Han Xuan Hao was an easygoing person, so now that he realized his feelings for the crown prince, he decided to stay by the crown prince’s side and figure out exactly what his feelings were.