The Emperor’s Strategy

Qing Yao

Chapter 2

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Scene 2: In Which a Tomb is Raided and a Heart is stolen


   Her neck was ticklishly cool, the gooseb.u.mps popped up on her hands as if on alert, Su Li Li suddenly gave a yell, the cold sharpness of her voice would triumph over the night cats.


  She turned her head, and someone's face was very close before her. 


  She quickly crawled back a few steps using her hands and legs towards the direction of the big temple. After regaining her composure, she realised the person was a young gentleman, wearing a white brocade robe, in the midst of the dark night he gave out an ambiguous aura, his narrow long eyes reflected the fire in the stars, but his manner appeared gentle and elegant, his hands on his knees, he was bending forward and watching her. After half a day*, Su Li Li finally let out a gasp of air, patted her chest, and patted her heart back to its original position. 


  She suddenly remembered the man in black robes, and quickly turned her head, she became dazed. The temple door was empty, there was no shadow of a man to be seen. In the main hall, the person who had been melted into water, even the clothes were nowhere to be seen. As if everything was an illusion, Su Li Li lifted her head and sniffed, in the midst of the air there was a decaying smell which proved it was not just an illusion. She used effort to stabilise her state of mind, climbed up from the ground, pulled her robe sleeves, and stood firmly before she faced the brocade robe gentleman with a respectful hand gesture, "The moon is dark, the winds are high, for the gentleman to be sightseeing and playing here, he must have very particular taste."


  The gentleman straightened himself elegantly and said slowly, "The night is perfect to kill someone when the moon is dark, the day is perfect to set fire when the winds are high." The voice was a little nasally, to Su Li Li it sounded like sandpaper grinding the coffin boards which had just been sawed, smooth and low.**


  With only an inch distance between them, although he was smiling brightly, she felt her back become chilly. She took in a breath of air and said, "Killing a person and setting fire is big business, digging graves is small business. Since all of us are here to look around, the gentlemen must be joking." Su Li Li gave two sounds of fake laughter, and then stood up to leave. 


  After taking two steps, her wrist was held back by his hand, his grip was like his voice, not light not heavy, "This gentleman,why did you cry in alarm earlier?"


  Su Li Li's hands were a little clammy from the cold, her hand was a little slippery, she removed her hand from his grip and looked at him with a lowered gaze, "Because the gentleman appeared suddenly behind my back without a sound, in this wilderness it frightened me." 


  "Since it's the wilderness, what were you doing crouching there?"


  Su Li Li may not be smart, but she wasn't stupid, naturally she won't reveal that she was here to raid a tomb, even more she won't say she had seen what had just happened, she opened her mouth and started concocting: "To be honest to this brother, my parents has arranged a marriage for me, but my heart is already with another. Tonight I had plans to elope with the person. Just now, I was waiting."


  Just as she finished, Mo Da carrying a heavy and bulging bag, sneakily appeared. Su Li Li secretly gave a cry of despair to herself and closed her eyes. Mo Da's rough voice rang loudly, "Where did you run to... ah? Who is this?"


  Su Li Li opened her eyes and gave a fake smile. She coughed and cleared her throat, "Why are you here only now."


  The brocade robed gentleman examined Mo Da, furrowed his brows, a little confused, a little shocked, smiling but not smiling, he said, "Ah.... so it's a brokeback romance."***


  Su Li Li nodded her head in heavy pain, "Ah, the gentleman has sharp eyes, this place cannot tolerate us. Today we did not want to see anyone, but since we met you, please don't make a noise and let us go." 


  Mo Da has never studied, and did not understand what was brokeback or not brokeback, thinking that their raiding of the tomb has been revealed, he took out a golden cup from the bag and gave it to the brocade robed gentleman and said, "Brother, since you have knocked into us here, please accept this."


  Without even thinking, Su Li Li held back Mo Da's hand and said angrily, "Why are you so generous, we still have to eat later!"


  The brocade robed gentleman examined both of them and said, "You are an intelligent man, but he is a bit common." At which, he pointed at Mo Da. 


  Su Li Li sighed, "Indeed, I've told him so many times, but he is still this vulgar, thinking of using such vulgar gold metal objects to taint your high purity." 


   Hearing this, the brocade robed gentleman smiled as if the Night Blooming Cereus**** had blossomed in the night, he reached out his hand and touched Su Li Li's chin, "Since you know I'm so n.o.ble and unsullied, why do you stay with him, why don't you leave with me?"




   Mo Da listened to these words as if through a fog of clouds, finally he grabbed the meaning from the last sentence. Leave with him? They were all of the same road! He looked the brocade robed gentleman up and down and alarmingly said, "Brother, so you are also..."


  Before he could say "Here to Raid Tombs", he was cut off by Su Li Li who said heavily, "Even though the gentleman is also brokeback, I cannot bear to ditch this uncouth person. Once you meet someone who knows your heart, you don't want to part until the hairs all turn white, this is the true meaning of seeing past the vulgar and uncouth things on earth."***** As she said this, she silently removed his fingers. 


  The brocade robed gentleman narrowed his eyes and stared at her for a while, suddenly he nodded his head in approval, "Good, good."


  Seeing he is happy, Su Li Li raised her hands and gestured, "Farewell."


  She grabbed Mo Da and rapidly left, not daring to look back for one moment. 


  In the wilderness, the wind blew harshly across, the brocade robed gentleman met the wind face-on, and watched the two leave. 


  The person behind him said in a low voice, "Master, why did you let them go?"


  The brocade robed gentleman was silent for half a moment, he stretched out his hand as if he wanted to catch the wind that was blowing by, a light peppermint scent blew by. He lightly laughed, "This young girl is very interesting, go find out who she is."


  The figure in black robes behind him disappeared and quickly went to chased after her. 


  As the horse slowly walked on the Hundred Prosperity Road, Mo Da asked, "What is brokeback?"


  Su Li Li thought for a while and said, "It means to raid a tomb."


  "Why does it sound strange?"


  "Educated people speak this way."

*** You are reading on ***



  A lion was only the king of the beast when he was in the mountain jungle, the sea dragon was only the controller of ten thousands of creatures deep in the sea. Once they leave where they belong, they were only animals in a cage, deep sea fishes on a shallow beach. 


  But where did Su Li Li belong? Will she be able to hide her ident.i.ty forever? Even she did not know.


  The night wind was cold, Su Li Li turned around. Mu Tou's eyes were like the coloured gaze in the dark, storing a deep and quiet determination. She thought back of what she saw and heard today, she just felt that too many old things were acc.u.mulating, the suppression was heavy, but she lived light as ever. 


  Her heart was sad, but she smiled and said, "Mu Tou."




 Su Li Li was quiet for a moment then said, "Are your parents no longer around?"




  "Mine too."


  Her fingers lightly brushed the boards clutching his injured leg, "Does it still hurt?"




  She was silent for a long while, Mu Tou also made no sound, just like the wolves deep in the night, not waiting for prey, but comfortable in that darkness meant for himself. 


  After a long while, Su Li Li lightly said, "Sit next to me for awhile."






* It's just an expression that some time has pa.s.sed and not actually half a day's time. 

** Haha, isn't it funny that Su Li Li compares Qi Feng Xiang's voice to grinding sawpaper on a coffin board? Hahaha. 

*** The literal translation is broken sleeve, which implies h.o.m.os.e.xuality. I've translated it to brokeback instead. 

**** The Night Blooming Cereus is a flower that only blooms at night and only for a short time. 

***** This line basically encapsulates Su Li Li's heart. 

****** The other person living in Su Li Li's Coffin Shop is Uncle Cheng, a loyal servant from her previous days as the daughter of the Imperial Adviser.

*** You are reading on ***

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