It turned out that the pirates had only lasted so long due to the Chang Family’s support and were not as powerful as people had feared; with the Yan Family’s precious map in hand, Feng Zhiwei’s new navy easily destroyed the pirate scourge.
By Mid-December, Feng Zhiwei had triumphantly returned to Shang Ye to wait for Ning Yi’s return and their trip back to Dijing.
Hua Qiong had long since arrived in anticipation of Feng Zhiwei’s arrival, sharing a knowing smile at the docks as her ship anchored,
One smile was wide and somewhat sad as the young woman thought of the home she was leaving behind, perhaps forever. That little boy she had met so many years ago by the nunnery gates would never again cry into her arms.
The other smile was deep and longing; over the past few months, Ning Yi’s eyes must have largely recovered. They had been gone from Dijing for too long and they could finally return, together.
She stepped down from the ship, the precious box she carried even to war tied to her back, her heart bright and happy.
But as soon as she gained sure footing on the docks, a grey robed man dashed forward, falling to his knees before her and kowtowing in the muddy water!
The docks were still muddy from previous rain, but the man ran and knelt without hesitation, his falling knee splashing heavily and thudding.
A great anxiety immediately came over her as sudden storm clouds in a bright, Cleary sky. She stared down at the plain man, guessing from Gu Nanyi’s reaction that he was part of that group.
There was no one else waiting. Her ship had sailed day and night as swiftly as possible and the local officials had known she was arriving. Behind her, Chunyu Meng oversaw the disembarking soldiers, and Hua Qiong stepped away with the baby, giving Feng Zhiwei some privacy.
“Speak.” Feng Zhiwei sighed quietly, stooping to help the man up.
An almost fearful, abashed expression covered the mans face as he quickly replied: “Please Young Lady, do not wait for Prince Chu, please leave with us immediately!”
“Leave? Where?” Feng Zhiwei replied, frowning.
“This subordinate has made arrangements.”
Feng Zhiwei’s frowned deepened at ‘subordinate’.
She calmly replied: “Mister has worked hard over a long road. There is a courier station up ahead and I will have people arrange a room for your rest. I still need to deal with my returning soldiers, so I will not see you off.”
Her words done, she turned and left.
Feng Zhiwei continued walking.
The man stared anxiously at her back before turning to Gu Nanyi, but Gu Nanyi had never paid any attention to such matters. His own task was simple — accompany Feng Zhiwei; since she had turned, so did he.
The man stepped forward in frustration and opened his mouth, but before he could speak again, he remembered his Commander’s warning.
“Even though the Young Lady is decisive and sometimes ruthless, she deeply values friendship. If she knew the truth, she would definitely choose to risk herself. We should have been able to have the Sect Leader take her away, but he has changed in her company. You may not be able to convince him... but we definitely cannot allow the Young Lady to travel with Prince Chu... forget about it, act accordingly in the moment...”
He could not turn left or right, and so the grey robed man stood frozen in place, his anxiety mounting as Feng Zhiwei marched away, never turning her dead. Finally, he could not stand it any longer and chased after her.
The South Sea December night was bone piercingly cold with the icy wet wind incomparable to the North’s dry wind, even seeming to freeze your hair stiff.
Horsewhips lashed out urgently again and again, rise and fall blurring together, anxious hands merciless.
Feng Zhiwei galloped through the night.
She led, her long dark hair trailing in the wind like a battalion standard. Gu Nanyi and Hua Qiong followed a short distance away, but Feng Zhiwei paid them no mind, not caring if she left them behind.
Her world only had room for the howling wind and pounding hoofs, and the grey robed man’s helpless words.
“Young Lady, when you left Dijing, the Golden Feather Guard made you the target of the previous Dynasty’s unsolved case. This was why the Commander had to stay in Dijing, to oversee this situation; when he left to cure your illness, some accidents occurred in his absence.
“We have caught word of the Golden Feather Guard’s report to the Emperor, and it is very likely they will act against you. Fortunately, they do not know of your Wei Zhi identity, so the Commander has ordered this subordinate to come and stop you from throwing yourself into this trap. Please follow this subordinate and go into hiding.”
“Previous Dynasty’s unsolved case? What case?”
The man refused to elaborate, but how could Feng Zhiwei not understand the severity of the situation? The Golden Feather Guard. Ning Yi had once spoken of the Imperial Family’s secret guard, tasked with the most sensitive of Imperial Family cases and the most crucial and difficult surveillance and investigation. They were a sharp, shadowed blade wielded only by the Tian Sheng Emperor, the cut of its blade deep and biting.
The Golden Feather Guard was a powerful and ferocious sleeping beast; when it stirred, the whole family line would not be spared. She might be able to stay safe, hiding outside Dijing, but what of her mother?
The grey robed man’s reply had sent ice running from her head to her toes.
“Madam Feng has chosen a difficult lot, truly worthy of great admiration.” The man had replied, refusing to meet her worried eyes. He stared down at his boots as he spoke more and more quietly: “If we can safely endure this calamity, many of the Young Lady’s questions will be answered.”
Feng Zhiwei’s heart dropped. She had no energy to spare chasing after the grey robed man’s hints, immediately rushing off and riding away.
She left a hurried letter for Ning Yi asking him to make arrangements for the Imperial Envoy’s honor guards, only explaining that an emergency demanded her immediate presence in Dijing. It would be great if he was willing to cover for her, but if he refused, she no longer cared. If a calamity was striking, her Wei Zhi identity would not last much longer, and even if she could preserve it, what use did it have?
She commandeered the Yan Family’s entire stable of fast horses and rushed back in a frantic fervor, only dismounting so that she would not break her neck in her sleep. She could not waste any time — every moment was a life!
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