TIGR Chapter 3
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 3 The Fall off the Cliff
The first day of the twelfth month.
It snowed a few days ago and the past two days had been cold. Hong Wanqing sat in her carriage as a maid added more wood to the gilt-bronze hand stove, handing it over to keep Hong Wanqing warm: “Third Miss, the weather is cold, quickly warm your hands.”
Hong Wanqing took the offering and glanced through a gap in the curtain. Although she didn’t speak, the maid felt Hong Wanqing’s anticipation and immediately voiced: “It’s past the agreed time, why hasn’t the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion arrived yet?”
Today, the Zhenyuan and Yongping Marquis Mansions agreed to meet and give incense together. The filial Marquis of Zhenyuan had personally accompanied the Old Madam of Zhenyuan on the journey. However, the two families were both aware of the situation, the escort was fake. It was actually meant to give him an opportunity to be alone with Hong Wanqing.
This was intentionally arranged by the two families. The marriage was settled and they wanted the two youngsters to meet privately. They were eventually going to cross that door, so they might as well hurry it up and carry on the ancestral line. Hong Wangwing only met fu Tingzhou once many months before. Fu Tingzhou had come to visit the Yongping Marquis Mansion. When he went to the backcourt to pay respect to her mother, Hong Wanqing sat behind a screen at a distance. She only swept a glance at him, before her cheeks immediately flushed red. Everyone teased her and she did not dare look again. She only remembered that he was awfully tall with broad shoulders and long legs, strong and straight like a soldier and that he had a very manly stature.
Since that day, Hong Wanqing lost half of her heart. When her mother brought up marriage, her face turned red, and she weakly put on a show of resisting before agreeing quickly. Hong Wanqing knew that the second half of her life would be with this man, but really, she still did not know what Fu Tinghzhou looked like. She only heard from her male cousins and elders that Fu Tingzhou had a great appearance, his looks were most favored by the army.
This time, the elders arranged for them to meet again privately. When Hong Wanqing discovered that she would meet Fu Tingzhou, she was so excited that she did not sleep for two nights in a row. She had no trouble arriving for incense today, she was already well-prepared to leave before early this morning. They finally agreed on a meeting point, and she was still awaiting, left and right, without any Fu Tingzhou in sight.
Hong Wanqing’s restless heart cooled a little bit and she could not help but wonder. Did Old Madam Fu dislike her? Maybe Fu Tingzhou changed his mind and was not coming? Hong Wanqing suppressed her imagination, tightly gripped the hot hand stove, and whispered under her breath: “Perhaps the Old Madam of the Zhenyuan Marquis was occupied and left later.”
The maid suddenly approached and ambiguously said: “Third Miss, I heard the adopted daughter of the Fu family will also come today.”
Hong Wanqing’s eyes stirred, she pretended not to understand and asked: “Adopted daughter?”
Actually, Hong Wanqing had already known of Miss Wang. The Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion had one adopted daughter that Old Marquis Fu personally raised. Her appearance was extremely outstanding and known throughout the Circle of Nobles. Hong Wanqing did not know what her name was, only that her surname was Wang, she was literate, her martial arts was good, and she seemed to have a really close relationship with Fu Tingzhou.
When her brothers mentioned her at home, their tones were of pity, and if they saw Hong Wanqing coming, they would stop talking about her. Hong Wanqing knew the score, she was most likely her future enemy.
A man held a beautiful woman beside him for ten years, harbored and concealed, without letting others look at her, seventeen years old and he still has not married her off, this could only mean one thing. Her mother probably also heard the news floating around. Her mother privately divulged that her marriage with Fu Tingzhou was arranged by the Old Madam Fu herself. The Old Madam Fu promised that a situation would never arise where the wife was neglected, and the concubine was favored. If the Hong family was still not satisfied, Old Madam Fu would bring her over and let them check her out.
Her mother agreed and this is what happened today.
The maid snorted and said: “Who else could it be, it was the one adopted by Old Marquis Fu. It was said that her father saved Old Marquis Fu and to repay the debt of gratitude, he took her into the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, she lived there for ten whole years and was treated on the same level as the Marquis, so much so that all of the Fu family could not compare to the Miss herself. Now that Old Marquis Fu has left, Miss Wang does not know how to continue.”
Hong Wanqing was quiet for a moment and faintly spoke: “The Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion is a family that knows kindness and courtesy, it is unlikely that the Zhenyuan Marquis would treat his younger sister badly.”
The maid sneered and said strangely: “Is that right. Miss, do not worry, with Old Madam Fu here, these small matters will not bother the whole. Besides, my uncle said that Marquis Fu is thoughtful and reserved, it is unlikely that the Marquis of Zhenyuan would house impure people. With Old Madam Fu’s support and the Marquis’ sensibility, you will be living your future days in comfort.”
Hong Wanqing’s face turned red at these words, and she chided the maid: “You cannot suggest these absurdities, shut your mouth.”
The maid spoke well and got a pass after begging for mercy. Through this incident, many of Hong Wanqing’s worries fell away. Right, she is the daughter of the first wife in a Marquis mansion, she will be a wife in the future, how can she worry about a concubine? It’s just one adopted daughter who will likely be unsuccessful.
Just as she spoke, the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion arrived. Hong Wanqing was jolted, she and the maid immediately stopped talking, and turned their ears to listen. The rumble of wheels and voices approached, faintly mixed with sharp horse hooves. The sound of horse hooves stopped together in front of the Yongping Marquis Mansion where one clear and steady voice rang out: “We have arrived late, I ask the Madam of the Yongping Marquis to forgive us.”
Hong Wanqing’s heart dropped, she knew that the voice was her future husband, Fu Tingzhou, just on the other side of the wall. Hong Wanqing quietly raised the carriage curtain. She saw a dark purple figure not too far, he was tall and strong but his shoulders and back were quite thin. On horseback sat someone lean, tall, and strong, who looked like he trained often, different from the empty, superficial, hedonistic sons of rich parents.
When Hong Wanqing saw Fu Tingzhou’s face, her cheeks flushed red. She knew she neglected her manners and quickly closed the curtain. At this time, Hong Wanqing unintentionally raised her eyes and saw across from her, someone with their curtain half-open. Inside sat an upright and still person looking at her.
They both mistakenly looked at one another and lowered their curtains. Hong Wanqing grabbed a tassel unaware that she was even holding it.
That was Miss Wang, the younger sister Fu Tingzhou raised? Sure enough, as the rumors said, she was beautiful.
The maid saw Hong Wanqing staring at the curtain in a daze and thought that Hong Wanqing was shy. The maid softly called her and whispered: “Miss, we are leaving.”
Wang Yanqing returned to her senses and nodded faintly. Fu Tingzhou did not notice the snooping just now, he instructed the bodyguards to clear the way and set the carriage in motion. The womenfolk of both Mansions converged to form one group under the escort of Fu Tingzhou.
The Dajue Temple was located in the mountainous outskirts of western Beijing and used by the imperial households for worship, it was one of the most favored places in the capital. Hong Wanqing did not see Fu Tingzhou when she was glancing all around earlier, but as soon as he appeared, she immediately settled and calmed down.
Hong Wanqing suddenly realized that she would probably not be facing an ordinary concubine.
There were no twists or turns on the road and more than an hour later, they finally arrived. The Dajue Temple was accustomed to receiving solemn high-ranking nobles. Both carriages stopped at the inner gate, and when Hong Wanqing came down, she subconsciously looked to the other side.
Wang Yanqing also came down draping a pure white fox fur with a ring of fluffy down decorating her hood and hugging her chin. She was truly as cold as ice, clearly a ruler of this world. Fu Tingzhou stopped at her carriage to meet Wang Yanqing coming down and held his hand out to help her. Wang Yanqing smiled at Fu Tingzhou and shook her head, this time Fu Tingzhou left to see Old Madam Fu.
Hong Wanqing obviously clasped the heater in her hands, however, her hands felt impossibly cold. The Yongping Lady Marquis also saw this, she started coughing when she saw Wang Yanqing’s appearance. After she saw Fu Tingzhou’s attitude towards Wang Yanqing, her heart became heavier.
While waiting to enter, the Yongping Marquis Mansion rested in a side room. The Yongping Lady Marquis promptly called Hong Wanqing and instructed: “Wanqing, did you also see that woman called Wang Yanqing?”
Hong Wanqing lowered her head and nodded weekly. The Yongping Marquis Madam held her temper, and reminded frustratedly: “Just huh? Now is the time to step into your role. You are the legal wife, the future Zhenyuan Lady Marquis, you need to present yourself with the manner of a first wife, stun them with your first impression. When you return later, you need to speak more to Old Madam Fu, and speak smarter, do you understand?”
The Yongping Marquis was also one of Emperor Zhengde’s famous imperial generals. The Yongping Marquis had many concubines, and not all of his backcourt children got along, but the Yongping Lady Marquis was very smart. All the boys and girls were obedient to her, regardless of the favor received by the women in the backcourt, no person could ever challenge her position. The Yongping Lady Marquis contended with women all her life with great success. Soon her daughter would get married and then she could finally impart everything she learned in her life to Hong Wanqing.
From her mother’s sincere advice, Hong Wanqing’s heart would slowly become stronger. The Hong family had many sisters, but she had never fallen behind in gaining favor. Now she had the support of her family, the other person was just a girl from a military household with no family and only her beauty. She did not believe that she could lose.
After Hong Wanqing was encouraged by her mother, she returned to the waiting area and when she entered this time, she found that Fu Tingzhou was also there.
Old Madam Fu and Chen Shi sat in the middle, Fu Tingzhou sat beside Chen Shi, and had Wang Yanqing moved an embroidered stool to sit quietly in the back. Seeing the Yongping Mansion enter, Chen Shi and Fu Tingzhou rose, the lady of the Yongping Mansion smiled and strode to greet them: “The Zhenyuan Mansion has been waiting. Let me sit, I hope I did not interrupt you all.”
Fu Tingzhou smiled and said: “No, Lady Hong and third Miss, please sit.”
Everyone took their seats. Hong Wanqing stayed beside her mother and could not help glancing at Fu Tingzhou. Chen Shi followed Hong Wanqing’s eyes and smiled: “Lady Hong and third Miss Hong have arrived. Just now, third Miss said you were not feeling well. Are you okay?”
The Yongping Mansion Lady smiled brightly: “She is okay. We raised this daughter delicately, so she could not even stand half a day of traveling. Unlike the Marquis who has been in and out of the barracks since he was a child, even my brother has praised him.”
“Thank you.” Fu Tingzhou said, “when I left today, I was held up by some matters, I made Lady Hong and third Miss wait a long time. It was my fault, please forgive me, third Miss.”
Both Mansions had been together for half a day and only now did Fu Tingzhou turn his glance to Hong Wanqing. He even passed by her very politely. Hong Wanqing’s heartbeat rapidly sped up, he only called her “third Miss”, which was considered to be quite formal. But when these words came from him they cast her under a spell, she blushed and her heart beat, dazzled and stunned.
Because Fu Tingzhou was here, coupled with her mother’s advice from earlier, Hong Wanqing became much more lively in the second half of the day. She sat between Chen Shi and her mother, mindful and sparkling with wit, it did not take long for her to coax a laugh from Chen Shi. Between chatting and laughing, Hong Wanqing took glances at Fu Tingzhou. She found that he smiled while watching them, but the smile had no depth, as if he had something else on his mind.
Hong Wanqing was somewhat disappointed, but she remembered what her father mentioned, that Fu Tingzhou and the Imperial Guards were having some friction, perhaps he was thinking about some outside matters. Hong Wanqing did not understand court affairs, but with these three words alone, the Imperial Guards, there was already quite a problem.
Hong Wanqing felt distracted, and Fu Tingzhou did not pay attention to her at all. His absent-mindedness was indeed partly the Imperial Guards, but another portion was Wang Yanqing.
She was too quiet. She hung her head and did not speak, leaving Fu Tingzhou feeling indescribably flustered.
Wang Yanqing sat in the back, quietly listening as Chen Shi and the Yongping Marquis Mansion chatted and joked happily, like a family. They were indeed a whole family. Wang Yanqing curled her lip and smiled sarcastically. She was the only outsider.
Wang Yanqing felt that coming to the Dajue Temple was a mistake. As if it was not enough to be abandoned, why rush to the Temple and humiliate herself? Maybe people need to be slapped in the face to wake up. Right now, Wang Yanqing’s heart was still, once she got back, she could pack her things and leave.
Old Marquis Fu raised her for ten years, and she could not repay the favor by hurting him. Since had she called Fu Tingzhou, Second Brother, she walked quietly. She did not want to involve herself between him and her future sister-in-law. This was probably the last thing she could do as a younger sister.
The Dajue Temple gathering was a success. Winter days were short and it was already becoming dark in the afternoon. The layered clouds were moving in and it looked as if it was going to snow again. Fu Tingzhou saw that the weather was turning bad and proposed to return to the city. The Yongping Mansion Lady had already achieved her goal and did not have any objections so the two parties quickly packed up and casually set off as slowly as they had arrived.
When they walked to the mountain pass, the wind gradually increased. Fu Tingzhou draped a black coat over his shoulders and rode through the wind. He asked Wang Yanqing through the curtain: “What happened to you? Until when will you still be angry at me?”
After a long moment, a female voice came from inside: “I am not. How can I be mad with Second Brother?”
She was always like this, if she was mad, she did not quarrel or yell, never showing her temperament. Fu Tingzhou had always liked Wang Yanqing’s cool-headed and composed behavior, but right now, he really despised it.
Fu Tingzhou seemed to hit cotton with a fist. He intended to come to an agreement with her, she was not cold nor indifferent, but it seemed like she did not want to be involved. Fu Tingzhou’s frustration was building in his heart. This was their first argument and intuition told him to resolve it as quickly as possible.
Fu Tingzhou was going to speak when he suddenly heard a noise from the front, then the troops immediately stopped. Fu Tingzhou frowned and sent a group to investigate. After a while, the entourage ran back and said: “Marquis, the carriage of the Yongping Marquis third Miss broke down for some reason and cannot move forward. Marquis, do you want to check…”
Fu Tingzhou pinched his eyebrows, why did this happen at this particular time? Wang Yanqing heard and did not wait for Fu Tingzhou to speak: “Second Brother, the third Miss Hong’s carriage broke down, quicky go.”
Fu Tingzhou was the only male leader in the group, as well as the Yongping Marquis’s future son-in-law. He had to step up. This timing was amiss but Fu Tingzhou held back what he wanted to say. He moved the curtain and said: “This section of the road is dangerous, stay in the carriage and do not move, I will go to the front and check.”
Fu Tingzhou waited but did not hear a reply from inside, the carriage curtain remained motionless. The entourage already pushed ahead, and Fu Tingzhou could only leave this alone for now, he dismounted from his horse and left.
This location was a narrow road beside an overhanging cliff, it must be traveled through with utmost caution. Fu Tingzhou walked ahead and found that Hong Wanqing’s carriage axle was broken. Fu Tingzhou’s heart flashed with doubt and suspicion. The Yongping Marquis Mansion would not fail to check their carriage before their womenfolk left. It was fine when they came, why did the axle break down at the most dangerous section of the journey.
Right when Fu Tingzhou realized something was wrong, a loud sound split the air behind him. A mass of flaming arrows shot straight towards Fu Tingzhou. Fu Tingzhou’s training from when he was young was not in vain. He reacted extremely quickly and immediately dodged. The arrows missed Fu Tingzhou but startled the horse beside him. The horse neighed and suddenly reared its hooves and tried to run away but one of the carriage wheels was still broken. Hong Wanqing sitting inside was caught off guard. The back of her head hit the carriage badly, and her whole body was overturned and thrown out of the carriage.
When it looked like Hong Wanqing was about to roll down the cliff, Fu Tingzhou’s face turned hard and he quickly stepped forward to catch her just in time. A cold arrow from behind, like vigilant eyes, took the opportunity to attack Fu Tingzhou. Hong Wanqing was scared straight and grabbed his clothes in a death grip. Fu Tingzhou could not move and was about to be hit by the arrow when all of the sudden he felt a hard push from his side.
Fu Tingzhou was pushed by firm power and stumbled a couple of steps, narrowly avoiding the fatal blow, only to be scratched on the arm. He turned his head and when he saw the figure behind him clearly, his face changed drastically.
“Qing Qing, be careful…”
Wang Yanqing pushed Fu Tingzhou away but found herself in a dangerous position. In order to avoid the arrow, she was forced to draw back, but her footing slipped suddenly, and then she was floating on her back in mid-air.
Before Wang Yanqing fell, she saw Fu Tingzhou push Hong Wanqing behind him and rush toward her. Fu Tingzhou tried to stretch his arm, but his fingertips just brushed Wang Yanqing’s hand. Fu Tingzhou grasped as hard as he could but only came up with a handful of air.
Wang Yanqing fell off the cliff right in front of him.
Wang Yanqing did not think much when she pushed Fu Tingzhou. Actually, with Fu Tingzhou’s skill, if it were not for Hong Wanqing, he would not have been trapped by the arrows at all. He could use his life to protect another woman, but Wang Yanqing could not stand by helplessly and watch him die. Wang Yanqing risked her life to save Fu Tingzhou, but she herself slipped and fell off the cliff.
During her fall, she crashed into many dead trees. They slowed her momentum, but she hit the back of her head on a rock. Her head was buzzing and she saw flashes of white. Soon her back came in contact with some netted material, she was enveloped by a net as it slowly lowered to the ground.
Even so, when she reached the ground, pain shot all throughout her body and everything seemed to be displaced. She lay on the ground weekly and did not even have the strength to move her fingers.
The sound of footsteps seemed to be coming from all around her, everything became fuzzier. Before she closed her eyes, she saw the sway of a crimson red dress embroidered with a flying fish with four claws, sharp fangs, and a scary demeanor.
A pair of clean black leather boots stopped beside her.
Wang Yanqing no longer had the strength to open her eyes, she laid her head down and completely passed out.