“Of course!” Pi Yang replied. “I’ve always been treated like a young master by those around me, and you were the only one who thought of me as a regular person. You were the only person I could confide in.”
Yun Ruoyan fell silent. Honestly, she hadn’t expected that Pi Yang and the mute woman were actually good friends. From him, she had learned that the mute woman wasn’t some evil, malicious cultivator, but rather a person in her own right.
The memory of her body being bisected by her shade surfaced in her mind. Her veil had fallen away, revealing her parched, shrunken face, her two eyes like dark pits. She felt a sudden sense of irritation, of annoyance and revulsion toward fighting.
However, that revulsion disappeared in an instant. In reality, when one raised a weapon toward her, she had no choice, no time to consider whether her opponent was good or evil, whether her opponent was worth killing. No, the thought that flashed through her mind was far more primal: kill or be killed!
“It’s a bright night, isn’t it? Shall we walk around the courtyard?”
They were on the second floor. There were corridors and stairs all around them, full of places in which guards could be lying in wait for her. Yun Ruoyan planned to lure Pi Yang to a relatively open space so she could get some distance away from the guards that were undoubtedly surveilling her at this very moment.
Pi Yang agreed. As they talked, they walked downstairs and into the courtyard.
“Mistress, that Master Shade person’s following you down. I don’t see any sign of the other guards just yet.” Qiuqiu was constantly relaying information to Yun Ruoyan.
Yun Ruoyan and Pi Yang walked into the courtyard. The entire inn had been taken over by the Pi family, and a number of guards walked by the two of them on patrol.
“Mute woman,” Pi Yang called out, stopping short.
“Hmm?” Yun Ruoyan stopped and turned back to Pi Yang. Under the silver moonlight, his fiery hair looked like a blaze in the night.
“You feel different from before, but I can’t say why.” Pi Yang’s clear eyes seemed a little glazed over. “Although it’s been many years since I last saw your face, you’ve always been as kind to me as you were in my childhood. This time, however, I keep feeling like there’s a barrier between us that’s never been there before. You still sound like yourself, but your tone somehow reminds me of the woman I’ve been pining after. I don’t know why, but…”
“Are you saying that I sound like Yun Ruoyan? You must still be dreaming,” Yun Ruoyan commented.
“Right?” Pi Yang laughed at himself. “Is this what liking someone else feels like? Imagining that I can see traces of her in every woman around me? I must be addled and out of my mind, and yet…”
Yun Ruoyan turned away from Pi Yang. “You’ve only met her a few times, haven’t you? Where did this attraction come from? Wouldn’t she hate you just because you’re from the Pi family?”
“See? You sound just like her!” Pi Yang stopped and stared at Yun Ruoyan’s petite frame. He hesitated for a moment, then suddenly asked, “Will you show me your face?”
Yun Ruoyan stopped short and turned toward the youth, whose gaze seemed more and more bewildered. In order to hide her identity, Yun Ruoyan had deliberately chosen to avoid speaking in front of Pi Yang. Now, because she had decided to leave, she couldn’t help but want to speak her fill. Unexpectedly, Pi Yang was surprisingly sensitive, and he had already noticed something amiss with just a short conversation.
“Mistress, that Master Shade’s hiding in the crown of a nearby tree. The other guards have followed suit, and they’re hiding in the rock garden by your left and the bush by your right. There’s also one behind a tree ahead of you,” Qiuqiu reported again. It also didn’t know how Yun Ruoyan planned to escape, surrounded by enemies as she was, but it did what it could to help.
“Will you let me see your face, mute woman?” Pi Yang stepped forward, his hand extended toward her.
Yun Ruoyan glanced at Pi Yang with eyes as bright as the moon. She remained silent for a few moments before finally saying, “As you wish.”
Then, she tore the black veil from her face, revealing her true appearance. Her skin seemed to dazzle with moonlit radiance. Though she was expressionless as she looked toward him, it was sufficient for Pi Yang to turn breathless.
“It’s—it’s you, Yun Ruoyan!” Pi Yang stared at the woman in front of him in shock. That the woman he had been dreaming of would show up so unexpectedly in front of him was something he didn’t know how to respond to.
Subconsciously, he stepped forward and tried to extend a hand toward her, as if to verify that she wasn’t just an illusion. Yun Ruoyan leaned into his half-embrace and caught him in her arms, one hand against his waist, and the other by his chest.
An outsider would think them a couple embracing intimately, but an outsider wouldn’t see the black dagger that Yun Ruoyan slid against his chest.
“Don’t move!” she warned.
“I—I won’t.” Pi Yang was half a head taller than Yun Ruoyan. He glanced at Yun Ruoyan, currently in his arms, and exclaimed in shock, “How could you be the mute woman? When did you start impersonating her?”
“Since before you showed up,” Yun Ruoyan whispered into his ear.
Because she moved so quickly and Pi Yang didn’t seem like he was struggling, Master Shade and the other guards surveilling Yun Ruoyan didn’t notice that Pi Yang was now her hostage. Furthermore, the fact that she had waited until Pi Yang extended a hand to her before darting close to his body made it seem as though Pi Yang had forcefully pulled Yun Ruoyan into his embrace.
In the middle of the night, in a courtyard filled with moonlight, the second young master of the Pi family pulled a trusted aide and confidante into his arms… this sort of scene couldn’t help but evoke a hint of forbidden romance.
The patrolling guards ignored the duo as much as they could. Even the guards surveilling Yun Ruoyan looked away, and Master Shade was the only one who sensed the danger.
“Mistress, Master Shade is approaching you,” Qiuqiu reminded. Perhaps because it sensed how dangerous he was, even Qiuqiu’s voice was quavering a little.
“Yun Ruoyan, you’ve got guts, I’ll give you that.” Pi Yang didn’t seem as though he had been taken hostage, and his words made it sound as though he were even faintly amused. “Hiding in our midst all this time—don’t you know what would happen to you if you were caught?”
“Nothing good, of course.” Yun Ruoyan inclined her head to look at Pi Yang, then smiled brilliantly. “That’s why I’ll have you send me out, Second Young Master.”
Beguiled by her smile, Pi Yang seemed as though he would nod when Yun Ruoyan waved her hand at him, releasing an intoxicating fog in the air. Pi Yang stared at Yun Ruoyan’s bright, bright eyes, his thoughts becoming muddier and muddier…
“Mistress, be careful!” Qiuqiu chirped. From her back, Yun Ruoyan could feel an icy tingle of impending danger. Master Shade had detected the intoxicating fog in the air, confirmed that Yun Ruoyan was about to harm Pi Yang, and launched a sneak attack against her.
He clawed at her exposed back. Yun Ruoyan could have used Pi Yang as a shield, but she instead brought Pi Yang with her as she revolved in a graceful pirouette, dodging the blow and releasing the shade from her ring.
Shadow aura emanated from the ring and coalesced into the shape of a shadow. It was then that Master Shade finally appeared. Three guards appeared on either side of Yun Ruoyan, and all four men surrounded her.
“A shadow puppet…” Master Shade seemed somewhat surprised by Yun Ruoyan’s shade. “It’s been refined, so no wonder it still possesses some shred of cultivation. But something so incorporeal could only be used for sneak attacks.”
“Shade, I’ll leave Master Shade to you.” Yun Ruoyan ignored his words and continued infusing her black spiritual energy into the ring, causing its body to instantly take on a more corporeal form, and even the blade in its hands to sharpen.
“Oh? It’s gotten stronger all of a sudden!” Master Shade’s face changed as he saw the shade appearing right next to him, the glint of its blade silver in the moonlight. He instantly went incorporeal to avoid the attack, then appeared behind the shade. He raised a gnarled claw, then thrust it into the shade’s body.
The shade instantly released a concentrated layer of corpse aura, which flowed up Master Shade’s arm and toward his body. Although Master Shade had studied the shadow arts, he was ultimately still a human being, and this level of corpse aura was far more than a mortal form could handle. He immediately drew his hand back, but it didn’t break the connection, and the corpse aura continued to flow.
As the icy aura invaded Master Shade’s body, he began to panic. This was something he had never seen in his twenty years of study, and he hurriedly retrieved a black shortsword with which he cut at the aura, finally severing the connection.
The corpse aura that remained on his wizened claw entered his body, but Master Shade would be able to handle it. On the other hand, if he hadn’t broken the connection in time and had taken in too much corpse aura…
Without giving Master Shade any time to relax, Yun Ruoyan’s shade turned around and sliced at him again. Just like before, Master Shade turned incorporeal.Previous Chapter Next Chapter