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22: Taiye Lake
The Palace servant’s back bent lower, as if itching to shrink into the ground entirely: “Yes… yes, due to the Madame of Wei’s suggestions, the Exalted One ordered us to summon Commander Xie to, to pay respects at the bright hall.”
Unexpectedly Xie Yun’s face did not show any indignance or fury, and from Shan Chao’s angle, he saw only the tip of one eyebrow lift.
“Who is this Madame of Wei?” Shan Chao could not help but ask.
“A niece from the Empress’s family, and the new favourite of the Exalted One.” Xie Yun actually responded directly, only that a barely concealing sarcasm passed through his voice: “Not much brains, a walking trouble, no need to pay too much attention.”
Shan Chao spoke in suspicion: “Mas… Commander Xie.”
“What is it?”
“Your speaking accent just now, when you were talking to me…”
Shan Chao paused out of difficulty wording his sentences, and Xie Yun did not know why, mocking without thinking: “Who would mind your tangled little thoughts.” As he spoke he took the Tai-E sword, and stormed off.
Shan Chao’s gaze followed his rear view as it turned behind the flower-engraved screen, and for a while he was distracted to an extent with a thought, yet he was unable to say what that feeling was.
He only saw Xie Yun walk towards the great Palace banquet in the bright hall, and though his impression of this person was consistently vile to the extreme, yet at this moment he could not help but worry, and could not bear but to get up and walk to behind the screen.
The Exalted One was currently chuckling as he accompanied Lady Helan in drinking wine, the flesh and fragrance of a beauty in his arms, and had temporarily forgotten the recent troubles impossible to get rid of, only to hear Lady Helan softly give an exclamation: “Commander Xie has come.”
The Emperor raised his head, seeing Xie Yun pass by the magnificent and splendid candle-flames of a hundred lanterns, pass through the main hall filled with song and dance and arrive—
The Imperial Guard Commander’s stature was tall and straight and alone, his whole body dressed in the official uniform of snow-white cloud brocade with deep red arrow-sleeves, with a belt of gold-embroidered flying fish against a black background tied around his waist, and the Tai-E sword which was said in legend to have slain over ten thousand enemies; although only his silhouette was revealed, but it was already inharmonious with its luxurious and squandering surroundings, and for no reason left people feeling quite an abrupt change in their hearts.
The Exalted One himself could not say where did the abruptness come from, as he stared blankly as Xie Yun pass through the main hall in his approach, and his steady footsteps seemed to suddenly step on everyone’s hearts, and wherever he passed, it seemed as though the song and conversation quieted.
Xie Yun stopped before the throne, bowed and said: “Your Majesty.”
The Emperor had intended to mention this opportunity for a sword dance, but the words had yet to come out of his mouth when he felt that it seemed inappropriate, and by chance he glimpsed the gauze at Xie Yun’s temples, and thus said: “How did Commander Xie get injured?”
Xie Yun said: “Replying to Your Majesty, this time your subject left the capital to advance into a dangerous situation, and there are many sharp-witted and deceitful people in the Jianghu, and once a fight is started weapons have no eyes, as a result I suffered some light injuries.”
The Emperor nodded in deep thought: “In—In that case, were the Imperial Physicians summoned to examine it carefully?”
“By the grace of Her Highness the Empress, medical care has been bestowed, and the Imperial Physicians mentioned that only several days’ care is needed.”
—In any case it has always been like this, the Empress was there in all cases, and there was nothing to worry about… the Emperor momentarily shelved aside this trifle, and when he was about to speak, he suddenly heard Xie Yun speak again: “Her Highness the Empress is benevolent, and originally ordered your subject to take this day to rest, yet there are many people and eyes at a major Palace banquet, and your subject was not assured of the Palace security this night, and thus placed myself on shift at my own initiative—may the Exalted One forgive me.”
The Emperor finally realised where did he find this inappropriate.
The one before him was Xie Yun!
The leader of the Northern Bureau, Commander of the Imperial Guards, armed with a divine weapon from ancient times which had cut down enemies on campaign, in control of the thousands of Imperial Guards within the imperial city’s interior, bearing injury and still persisting in patrolling the Palace’s night guard, being summoned over to do a sword dance to liven things up?
This was not just a little bit strange, this was simply truly inappropriate!
Xie Yun lifted his head slightly to look at the Emperor, his face perfectly displaying a thread of humility and curiosity: “For the Exalted One to summon your subject, is there an important matter?”
Lady Helan shook the Emperor’s sleeve, a coquettish “Your Majesty” yet to come from her mouth, when the Emperor abruptly laughed: “My beloved subject does not need to over-think matters, We have only not seen you for several days, and only asked in passing a moment ago—men, Commander Xie is diligent in official business, bestow tea.”
Lady Helan started on the spot, and Xie Yun gave a salute: “Thanks to Your Majesty.”
Lady Helan gave a soft ‘hmph!’ and turned her body, and the Emperor could not actually coax her right before his ministers and subjects, and could only hurriedly pull her hand to show consolation.
The surroundings were filled with people peeping, sympathisers, and onlookers, but more people were studying Xie Yun with various types of gazes—the content in those gazes were rich and brilliant, yet Xie Yun acted as he did not see them, taking the proffered Biluochun from a palace maid to drain in one gulp, and then put down the teacup.
Right at this moment he glimpsed the Empress Wu on the main seat seeming to carelessly point at Lady Helan, and then point at him.
Xie Yun gave a blank stare, but in that instant he could not guess Empress Wu’s intention, thus he only saw her palm turn inwards, the back of her hand facing outwards, and then wave at him.
—that was a movement telling him to leave.
“……” Empress Wu opened her mouth, soundlessly forming three words: Tai, Ye, Lake.
Xie Yun’s heart stirred, and he bowed and said: “Your Majesty, if there is no other matter your subject shall take leave now. The Palace security patrols…”
The Emperor was currently occupied, and waved a hand to indicate his permission to leave. Yet Empress Wu abruptly spoke in concern: “Commander Xie ought to return home a bit earlier to rest, are there any other places to check personally?”
Xie Yun paused in suspicion.
“…Taiye Lake.” Xie Yun spoke deeply: “Your subject will check in a little bit, and then I can change the guards and exit the Palace.”
On the other side Lady Helan who was currently at loggerheads with the Emperor seemed to be paying attention to this side, and the Empress said with a smile: “That will be good, go then.”
Xie Yun suppressed the doubt which sprung from the bottom of his heart, turning around to briskly walk out of the inner hall, yet as he strode over the threshold he paused for a bit, leaning his head slightly to look inside.
—behind the marble openwork screen in a remote corner of the hall, there was a vague swaying of clothings, as if a human silhouette had been standing there for a long time, yet he could not tell if that person was looking in this direction or not.
Outside the hall doors the guard on duty cupped his hands in salute, and whispered a question: “Commander, do you have any other instructions?”
Is there a need to ask him to come to Taiye Lake?
Xie Yun hesitated for a moment, and then shook his head in self-mockery.
“There is nothing else,” he said to the guard: “I will be back in a moment.”
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