After a day and night of flying, the four of them finally arrived by the border of the Feng city. Feng Yanyang was in the general’s tent discussing the upcoming strategy for the fight with Feng Yicheng and Feng Bo when several scouts came to report that four cultivators were flying toward them from the Pi city.
“It must be Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan with Feng Mian!” Feng Yicheng shouted in agitation.
Feng Yanyang and Feng Bo both stood up, and the three men left the tent together to watch for the incoming cultivators.
As the four-man party landed in front of the tent, Feng Yanyang, Feng Yicheng, and Feng Bo rushed forward to welcome them.
“Mian’er!” Feng Yanyang called out.
“Father!” Feng Mian replied, tearing up. He had had to remain guarded all throughout his stay at the Pi manor, and being reunited with his father again brought him no small measure of relief. He thought that his father would hug and comfort him, but, unexpectedly, Feng Yanyang suddenly stopped in front of him, his face turning severe.
Then, before Feng Mian could react, Feng Yanyang suddenly raised a palm and slapped Feng Mian across the face. Given his injured legs, Feng Mian stumbled from the force of the slap, and he only avoided a fall because Feng Yicheng, beside him, gave him a helping hand.
“Father!” Feng Mian clutched his face in disbelief. “You—why would you hit me?!”
“You good-for-nothing!” Feng Yanyang’s worry had all but turned to fury. He pointed at Feng Mian’s nose and scolded, “You don’t know why I’m hitting you? What have I taught you in the past? To stay away from gambling dens, from brothels! But you, you—you went to those despicable areas with your own swordsmen! Not only have you destroyed any semblance of order and rank between you and your troops, you even fell into your opponent’s trap! Don’t you think you should be criticized?”
Feng Mian clutched his face and pursed his lips. He didn’t speak, but his resentful gaze spoke volumes.
“Lord Feng, Young Master Feng has just returned. He’s still hurt, so please don’t criticize him too much,” Feng Bo persuaded.
“Feng Bo!” Feng Yanyang thundered. “I haven’t dealt with you yet. I told you to be strict with him, but you’ve always been lenient! How am I supposed to feel secure about handing the reins of the Feng family to him?!”
“Lord Feng, it’s my fault.” Feng Bo bowed. “I was the one who failed my obligations, so if there’s anyone to blame, it should be me.”
Feng Yanyang glanced at Feng Mian, then at Feng Bo, then finally sighed. “Forget it. Take this experience as punishment. If there’s a next time, I certainly won’t send anyone to save you.”
“My thanks for saving my life, Father,” Feng Mian spat out. Before Feng Yanyang could reply, he shoved Feng Yicheng aside and began hobbling away.
“Hold it!” Feng Yanyang called out. “What sort of attitude is this?!”
“Lord Feng, please calm down. Young Master Feng has just escaped from death, so please give him some time to collect himself,” Feng Yicheng persuaded.
“Yicheng, don’t speak up for him. If he were half as capable as you, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time on him!” Feng Yanyang’s words stabbed into Feng Mian’s back like a flurry of sharp knives. Feng Mian felt the iron tang of blood in his throat. He spat out a mouthful, then collapsed.
“Young Master Feng!”
Amidst the crowd’s shocked cries, Feng Mian fell to the ground. His internal injury hadn’t been treated, and his external injuries had only been exacerbated by the flight. The scolding he received from his father was the last straw, sending him into a state of unconsciousness.
“Tian’er, how could you have been so rash?!” Within the Pi manor, after Pi Yan found out that Feng Mian had been saved, he harshly criticized Pi Batian. “We spent so much effort to catch Feng Yanyang’s only son, and you let him be saved just like that? The swordsmen reported that you intentionally took him out of the Pi manor with you! Why? Explain this to me, now!”
“Please calm down, Father.” Pi Batian hurriedly handed him a cup of tea, one that Pi Yan refused to accept. Clearly, he was incensed by Pi Batian’s decision, which he had made without informing Pi Yan beforehand.
Pi Batian put the teacup back on the table and began, “I had a reason for doing so.”
Pi Yan raised his eyebrows. “What reason?”
“Father, what kind of man do you think Feng Yanyang is?” Pi Batian countered.
“What kind of man? An old, wily fox.”
“Not just that, but also a stubborn fool who would sacrifice anything for the sake of the Feng family,” Pi Batian added. “Based on my understanding of him, he would never surrender to us just because of Feng Mian, and neither would he exchange Li Mo or Yun Ruoyan for his beloved son. If we were to treat Feng Mian like a meat shield to threaten Feng Yanyang, it would ruin and tarnish our reputation; if we were to kill Feng Mian directly, the Feng family would use that fact to turn public opinion against us. Feng Mian’s nothing more than a hot potato, one we want to give away as quickly as possible.”
“So you brought him out for him to be rescued? Why capture him in the first place, then?”
“Feng Mian’s capture laid the groundwork for my plans. If things go as predicted, the Feng family will fall without any additional work on our part. Even if they survive, the ordeal will surely weaken them beyond recovery.”
“Oh?” Pi Yan finally revealed an expression of interest. “Tell me more.”
Pi Batian began whispering in Pi Yan’s ear. When he was finished, Pi Yan turned to him. “Are you confident that things will go according to plan?”
“Truthfully, my plan only has about a fifty percent chance of success. The crux of the plan is Feng Mian. Based on my understanding of him and Feng Yanyang, as well as what I’ve said to him over the past few days, I’m confident of at least that much. And if it fails, we have nothing to lose.”
“Fifty percent,” Pi Yan murmured, looking appraisingly at Pi Batian. “Such a result is certainly worth the gamble.”
That night, as Feng Yicheng drained flask after flask of wine, Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo walked up to his side.
“Brother Feng, we’re here to join you in drinking. You won’t mind, will you?” Li Mo ventured.
Feng Yicheng’s head drooped. He didn’t speak, but he beckoned them forward with an arm.
Li Mo sat down by his side, and Yun Ruoyan beside him.
Feng Yicheng tipped his head back and drained the remaining wine in his flask, then tossed the flask aside with abandon. Li Mo handed him another flask of wine, which Feng Yicheng instantly started to drain.
“Brother Feng, the big battle’s in two days. You have to take care of your body,” Li Mo advised.
During the day, when Yun Ruoyan told Feng Yicheng about what had happened to Madam Hong, his face had crumbled. Nevertheless, he motioned for Li Mo, Yun Ruoyan, and A Fei to continue describing what they had learned about the Pi city.
The information that A Fei provided regarding the smaller families was particularly crucial. She suggested that the Feng family continue working on pulling some of the smaller families in the Pi city to the Feng family’s side, and volunteered to be responsible for doing so. However, Feng Yanyang refused her. A Fei might soon be the only survivor of the courtesan troupe, and Feng Yanyang couldn’t bear to have her take on so much risk.
“I thought that she would cherish her life more because of me, but she still chose to die with her sisters,” Feng Yicheng murmured brokenly. “Would it be so difficult to live for me? Am I not worth her time?”
No one could answer Feng Yicheng’s questions, likely not even Madam Hong. After all, from what Yun Ruoyan could tell, she was simply acting according to her feelings toward her sisters, not because she found him wanting.
“Madam Hong’s not yet dead,” Yun Ruoyan emphasized. “If you try to rescue her yourself, she might agree to go with you.”
Feng Yicheng sat stock-still, and he gazed at Yun Ruoyan with eyes that suddenly filled with hope. “You’re telling the truth? If I rescue her personally, she’ll leave with me?”
“I can’t be certain,” Yun Ruoyan replied, “but you’ll have a larger chance of success than we do. Even if it’s unlikely, I think you should still try it.”
“A little hope…” As Feng Yicheng mulled over Yun Ruoyan’s words, the light drained from his eyes. “The battle starts in two days, and I’m the vanguard for the initial assault. I can’t drop all my responsibilities for this hope.” He drained the wine that Li Mo had given him.
Yun Ruoyan sighed. “If you think your responsibility more important than that little bit of hope, I’d recommend that you not drink.” Yun Ruoyan stood up, and Li Mo followed suit. “I’m tired, Li Mo, so let’s go back,” she murmured, leaning against his side.
“Alright,” Li Mo replied, then left with her in tow.
Two steps away, Yun Ruoyan stopped and turned back. “If you don’t save her, you should start thinking about how to avenge her.”
Feng Yicheng finally stopped drinking, then tossed the flask in his hands to Li Mo. He caught it, kept it, and turned away. Behind him, Feng Yicheng yelled out, “Hong’er, I’ll kill Pi Yan and Pi Batian for you!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter