"Ming Feizhen, did your guts grow another size!" thundered the Emperor.
Because Ming Feizhen and Princess Hongzhuang didn't control their volume on time, everyone in the hall heard their dialogue. Unsurprisingly, the members of royalty immediately began to whisper among themselves.
"Wow, they're already talking about their bodies. Our Princess sure is liberal."
"I heard Her Highness left the imperial palace for a few days, and no one knew where she went thereafter. Could she have…"
Seeing the Emperor roll his sleeves up as if he was going to fight him one-on-one, Ming Feizhen hurriedly explained, "Please calm down, Your Majesty. That was incomplete speech said for the sake of convenience. What your subject wanted to loan was Her Highness' Glass Sabre on her lower body, which is of the same importance as her body. Your subject did not have any warped agenda."
Princess Hongzhuang quickly nodded, "Yes, yes, he meant lower body."
"Wow, so not her body, but her lower body."
"Shh, quiet. Patriarch Jin's hairs are standing up."
"His green hair you mean."
"So what He would still have to forgive her, wouldn't he"
Jin Wangsun was already cornered. With the remarks now made on top of that, he was aggravated to the point that he was pale in the face. If you stole a quick glance, you'd see a green hat on his head.
The Emperor understood it was a misunderstanding and, therefore, quickly redirected everyone's attention toward him. He raised his voice, "As you are both here now, you should begin preparing."
Jin Wansun and Ming Feizhen stood aside. The both of them snickered, but didn't speak. However, Jin Wangsun's pale face was very clear. Thus, being able to hold his head high was fortunate as it was.
As for Princess Hongzhuang, for whatever reason, she instinctively stood behind Ming Feizhen when he and Jin Wangsun were told to get in position.
"Once the all of the guests have arrived, we shall commence," stated the Emperor. He glanced over to Princess Hongzhuang. Angry, he let out a puff of air. "Hong'er, why are you not sitting down'
"I… was used to standing…"
Hongzhuang only realised she was in the wrong place upon hearing her father's question. Embarrassed, she lowered her head and sat down.
Jingan, who sat to Hongzhuang's left-hand side, indifferently watched them. Once Hongzhuang sat, Jingan finally smiled, "Long-time no see, Hongzhuang."
"Greetings, Elder Sister," greeted Hongzhuang, albeit in a flustered fashion upon seeing Jingan. "Please forgive Hongzhuang for not greeting you sooner when you came back a long time ago."
There was a mountain of rules in the imperial palace. The royal family members were trained from a young age. Princess Jingan was special among the Princesses, for she was the Princess with the purest blood in the royal family. She was permitted to return to the imperial palace at her own pleasure despite being married. In fact, the Emperor was so reluctant to part with her that he located her temporary-stay palace mere hundreds of miles away at Hangzhou.
Although Princess Hongzhuang's mother was a descendent of one of the White Champion Princes, her mother was considered a commoner compared to Jingan's biological mother. Therefore, her lineage was considerably inferior compared to Jingan. As a consequence, it was clear how they were viewed differently.
"Good girl," giggled Jingan. "Hongzhuang, it hasn't been long since we last met, yet you're already getting married. Let me have a look. All the men in the world would love this beautiful sister of mine."
Hongzhuang blushed and lowered her head, "You are considered the most beautiful woman in the entire capital, Sister. Brother-in-law is the one who is truly blissful."
"Hihi, your brother-in-law"
Jingan then glanced over to Ming Feizhen, apparently without consciously wanting to. Her concern was worn on her face.
"He's a busy man. Who knows where he is or what he's doing right now If he's not in a violent fight already, he'll be competing against somebody tonight."
Ming Feizhen, who the Emperor glared at the entire time when he walked over, touched his nose and coughed due to feeling guilty…
Hongzhuang quickly responded with a smile, "Why is there any need for you to feel concerned, Sister Brother-in-laws skills reign supreme. Back then, he defeated over ten skilled martial artists in the inner circle in a single swoop. Even Yi Ya was only able to score a draw against him. It would be hard for him to find a challenger with his degree of skill."
"You know I'm uneducated in regards to martial arts."
Jingan shifted her body to get closer to her sister with a smile. The two beauties, who were sisters, sat together, forming a dazzling sight in the hall.
"My younger brother-in-law would definitely possess respectable skills, as well. Tell me who you like."
All of a sudden, Hongzhuang went red in the face, a reaction that Jingan didn't expect. Nonetheless, she was always one to wear her thoughts and mood on her sleeves. But despite fear or smiles, she was always able to maintain her composure. She merely glanced over to Ming Feizhen with a smile.
Hongzhuang noticed her sister's line of sight. Hence, she wore on a straight face, "Neither of them. I do not like either of them."
Jingan giggled, but kept her gaze on Ming Feizhen.
Ming Feizhen didn't dare to interact with Jingan. He maintained the look of a Buddhist to avoid the Emperor noticing his usual mannerisms he was familiar with. While he did use a disguise as Fuma Jingan, he did speak face to face with the Emperor before. Hence, if a familiar aspect was noticed, it'd be lethal for him.
JIngan didn't dare to unmask Ming Feizhen, as if she failed to take him out in one stroke, Ming Feizhen's retaliation would be destructive with his skills. A wise man doesn't trade blows so that both parties end up hurt. That was why there was the three-year time frame. In spite of not daring to reveal his identity, whether it was deliberate or not, she would always come up with tricks or pranks. It was as if making things difficult for Ming Feizhen was entertainment for her.
The Emperor was unaware of the subtle occurrences below. Voice loud, he asked, "Constable Ming, Patriarch Jin, I have informed you two of today's events. Are you two prepared"
Ming Feizhen answered in a loud voice, "Your subject, Ming Feizhen, has fully prepared himself thanks to your grace."
Jin Wangsun answered, "Your subject sends you his greetings, Your Majesty. Your subject is also fully prepared."
After checking to ensure everyone was seated, the Emperor nodded, "Shining Edges shall immediately commence. Before we begin, though, allow me to preface that I am not making things difficult for you two. This is merely the royal family's traditional way of selecting a fuma. This is also my first time putting the tradition into practice. In addition, you two are pillars of the nation. I do not wish to see either of you hurt. Remember to hold back and stop when appropriate.
Today is New Year's Eve. It is meant to be a day for family to reunite. I have no choice but to allow violence despite it being inappropriate. I hope you two bear in mind the word 'stop'. I will not show the other leniency if either of you is hurt!"
As the Emperor spoke, he swiftly swept his sharp gaze over the two. Though he looked at both of them, in reality, his warning was directed at Jin Wangsun, who shot Ming Feizhen a glare.
"What are you looking at If you have eye problems, go visit a doctor," fired an annoyed Ming Feizhen. "As if liking lying in vats wasn't bad enough, you've got eye problems now, as well Man, I feel sorry for your parents."
Jin Wangsun gnashed his teeth, "Do your best to be as insolent as you can now, because it'll be too late for you to regret it later."
Jin Wangsun then stood opposite Ming Feizhen with his back facing the Emperor. Suddenly, he revealed an aggressive smile and quietly snickered, "Ming Feizhen, Night Fortress' Master… You can forget beating me with your formidable skills in surprise attacks! I've seen through your disguise; I know your true identity. The master of Night Fortress would actually disguise himself as a branch disciple of Mount Daluo and infiltrate Liu Shan Men to be a low-ranking constable. You must have something big in mind, huh'
Jin Wangsun was well aware that he couldn't match Ming Feizhen's skills. He was eighty-percent confident that Ming Feizhen wouldn't go all out. In saying that, he still needed to avoid "what if" and, therefore, there was no better time to threaten him than now.
Ming Feizhen didn't flinch. He calmly asked, "What do you want"
"Nothing," replied Jin Wangsun, with a hideous smile. "If you kneel to me now and promise not to give me trouble, I can show you benevolence and allow you to continue working as a constable. What do you think!"
*Inner circle martial artists - refers to martial artists who are permitted entry into the deeper parts of the imperial palace. Compared to other martial artists, they are considered more skilled and trustworthy. Considering using “warriors” instead of martial artists. Less literally, but maintains the fact that they are trained for combat, but could potentially cover a wider classification, since generals or guards could potentially pop up in the list. Let me know what you think in the comments.
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