This chapter of Da Mo Yao is stunning. It’s like Tong Hua lulled us into complacency thinking the story was now all about plotting and skirting political landmines, when in truth there is yet another action-packed shocker to be had. This also marks the final turning point for Huo Qu Bing in realizing his future path. Chang An may have been his past, but Yu Er is his future. It’s hard for anyone to let go of family and friends, but the decision is made easier when said family and friends no longer hold the same affection. And for the first time ever, it’s Yu Er’s turn to save Huo Qu Bing. I say – about time girlfriend stepped up for her man!
Chapter 36: Death Trap
For the empty Prime Minister position left by Li Cai’s suicide, every faction works hard to push for their own candidate. Huo Qu Bing continues his usual stance at court of being cold and uninvolved. He goes to train the soldiers, play football, hunting, and making merry. In the football field, Crown Prince Liu Ju becomes a regular participant. Huo Qu Bing even takes Liu Ju out hunting, the two cousins not following court protocol and going into the mountains without any servants or guards. They are gone for three days and return bearing lots of animals.
Because the Crown Prince was gone for three entire days, the normally gentle Empress Wei is furious. Liu Ju kneels before his elders and asks forgiveness. He puts the entire blame on himself and tries to say Huo Qu Bing had nothing to do with it. Empress Wei sighs “Both of you cousins need to be punished!” Turns out Liu Che shakes his head and says “Forget it! Forget it! Qu Bing’s wild personality isn’t new. The first time he went into battle he took eight hundred soldiers and attacked a Xiong Nu army base. We should be relieved that he didn’t take Ju Er on a trip to Xi Yu.”
Qu Bing not following rules and doing what he wants is nothing new. What is new is how close he and Liu Che are becoming. When Fall arrives, Liu Che decides that the Crown Prince’s tutor shall be the next Prime Minister. After the suicide of Li Guang, the battle against the Wei family finally comes to an end, with the Wei family netting a major victory.
I’ve never spoken with the Crown Prince, and my impression of him remains from the gossip in court. His personality is very different than Liu Che, and more like Wei Qing and Wei Zhi Fu. Even though he is the Crown Prince, he is very polite and solicitous to everyone. He understands the suffering of the common people, and takes a very different perspective than the military-minded Liu Che.
The Crown Prince’s behavior this time really stunned me. He knows Huo Qu Bing’s intentions and agreed to go out hunting with him. Based on his usual reserved and cautious personality, everyone will know this was Qu Bing’s idea. But he took all the blame and kept insisting it was his fault. This makes Huo Qu Bing look even more culpable, and everyone will praise the Crown Prince for being so generous and kind.
“Qu Bing, the Crown Prince is still young but he’s so calculating already.” Qu Bing smiled wanly “In his position, being calculating isn’t a bad thing. Don’t blame him. If he didn’t have some deviousness, then we ought to worry he won’t be able to handle things later.”
Even though Qu Bing said this, I can see the hurt and disappointment in his eyes. I feel hurt and frustration for him. He is doing everything to help them, but they still don’t trust him completely. They want him to work for them, but they also continue to find ways to chip at his power and influence in court in any way possible.
I want to change the subject so I stick my tongue out at him and then pout “If you want to be a scapegoat then fine with me! But……” I walk up to him and tug on his arm “You have to take me out hunting. I hear the Emperor has invited all hundreds of ministers and officials to Gan Quan Palace (his Summer retreat) to hunt. Take me……”
He immediately said “No!” I shake his arm and keep pleading, but he walks away and refuses to look at me “I’m off to the army base, let’s discuss when I get back.” I ignore his escape tactic and stick by his side, shaking his arm non stop. He pleads with me “Yu Er, later when I have time, I’ll take you to the mountains for a few days of fun. Why go with them? It’s a hunt but really it’s just more political arrows and slings. You won’t have fun.”
I humph “When you have time? When do you have any free time these days? You claim to be busy with important business, or maybe even unimportant business. Playing football and hunting, all you do is play. Everything you do has an ulterior motive, so you’re just exhausted inside. I can tell you don’t have much free time and don’t expect you to take me out to play. So take me now! Take me…..”
As we walked, all the maids saw me whining to Qu Bing and they all lower their heads and look away. Qu Bing sighed “You’ve become so shameless now!” I was staring at him this entire time so I didn’t notice our surroundings. With his reminder, I felt a bit embarrased but I didn’t want to concede defeat “I learned it all from the Great General Huo! Since they’ve seen even more intimate moments, why do I have to worry about? Take me! Take me please…………” I continue chanting the same spell.
He finally couldn’t handle it anymore and turned to look at me. Initially his eyes were very sure but once he saw my expression, he gave a long sigh and shook his head dejectedly “Fine! Stop giving me the pitiful whining look. I’ll take you.”
I burst into a brilliant smile while he smiled in defeat. But once he saw how happy I was, he turned happy as well. He reached out and lightly pinched my cheeks “No wonder Meng Jiu does whatever you want and can never say no to you…….”
I don’t know if my smile stayed the same, but his immediately disappeared. He realized what he said unconsciously, joking about me and Jiu Ye, so he swallowed the rest of what he was going to say. He changed the subject casually “This is fine, go back now.” I see we are at the front door of the estate so I nod.
My eyes see him off before my face finally crumbles. I owe Jiu Ye so much, and the only thing he wants is the one thing I cannot give him in this lifetime. So all I can do is live happily like he wanted for me. Then maybe he will feel some comfort. But then what kind of comfort could that be? I raise my head to look at the blue sky. Are there really Gods who live up there? Then I beg you to please let Jiu Ye forget me, to give him true happiness.
We were on the carriage out of Chang An headed for Gan Quan Palace, but Huo Qu Bing still couldn’t understand why I insisted on coming for the hunt. He knows I hate gathering with nobles and courtiers. And this hunt will be all such nobles and courtiers. Crown Prince Liu Ju, the three princes, Great General Wei, Gong Xun He, Li Gan, Li Guang Li, Zhao Puo Nu….. A bunch of new and old nobles, all the important ministers in the court. With so many people there, the security is sure to be tight.
It appears like a hunt, but it could turn into a monumental political moment at the blink of an eye. Who knows which faction is hunting the other at this banquet. I don’t want to stay in Chang An worrying, I just want to stay by his side. Even if I can’t help, at least if anything happened we would be together.
When Liu Che saw me, he pointed at Huo Qu Bing and shook his head with a smile. Huo Qu Bing saw Li Yan standing behind Liu Che and also smiled “Your servant I once again have the same idea as Your majesty.”
Liu Che laughed “The same idea is good. With you blocking for me, those folks can’t annoy me and claim that I’m a ruler who is mired in womanly wiles and can’t rule. Who says a proud and true man can’t have his emotional safe harbor. Living such a life is the true measure of a man.” Huo Qu Bing and Liu Che toasted each other after that little speech. The relationship between them resembled that of warriors living by the creed of honor, rather than an Emperor and his subject.
No wonder Liu Che favors Huo Qu Bing. Deep down they share a lot of similarities, with very proud and passionate personalities, but neither adheres to the rules and restrictions. But in another way they are nothing alike. One seeks power and the other eschews it. And this is yet another reason Liu Che trust Huo Qu Bing. Li Yan wasn’t very well and she rested in the carriage in a very tired way. She must not be doing well these days, plus her health was never very good. With her inner worries, no wonder she’s constantly sick. Seems like Liu Che specifically took her out of the Palace to cheer her up.
Liu Che truly adores Li Yan like no other in his harem. Coming out to hunt, he doesn’t care about the inconvenience and still wants to bring along a Li Yan who probably would topple over if a gust of wind hit her.
Gan Quan Palace is located on Gan Quan Mountain, hidden deep in the woods with rocky formations, streams, and an unending spectacular view. Qu Bing has been here with Wei Qing and the Emperor since when he was a kid so he’s intimately familiar with this place. As we entered the mountain, he pointed to every place and told me all about it.
Finally he just led me away from the entire procession, not even taking the horses, and we ended up walking hand-in-hand through the woods. We don’t know when the others arrived at the Palace, but we played the entire way up so it was dark by the time we arrived at Gan Quan Palace.
We still didn’t take the major road and instead continued to amble up across the little streams and over the rocks. Between an outcropping of rocks we could vaguely see two people standing there. We both have above average eye sight, and with even a little moonlight, we immediately know who it is.
I was momentarily stunned but then I composed myself, whereas Qu Bing was shocked beyond belief and he immediately stopped and in his eyes was pure disbelief. It was impossible to tell if this was a chance encounter or one of Li Yan’s specially orchestrated “encounters”. We see Li Gan kneeling and bowing before Li Yan and wishing her well. Li Yan reached out her hand to tell him to rise, and the moment Li Gan rose he reached out and grabbed her fingertips.
Li Yan was likely as taken aback by Li Gan’s gesture as we both were. Her face was shock and her body shook, and in her eyes there were unshed tears. The normally smart and alert Li Yan turned into a rock and didn’t immediately pull her hand back. She just stood there staring dumbly at Li Gan. Li Gan raised his head and looked directly at Li Yan. Their eyes met and he appeared to shock himself out of his stupor and he immediately released her fingers and took a few steps back.
Even though it was mere seconds, so short I wondered if I was seeing things, and it was just three fingers and Li Gan probably didn’t even feel the warmth from Li Yan’s hand, but the explosion of hidden emotion between them was stunning to see. It wasn’t clear if Li Yan was planning on saying anything to Li Gan, but right now she just said nothing and rushed away from Li Gan. She was moving so fast that neither Huo Qu Bing nor I could hide ourselves and she saw us.
She immediately stopped and looked at us with her face ashen. Li Gan also saw us and immediately rushed in front of Li Yan as if we were ferocious beasts ready to harm her. But then he realized that we could be even more dangerous than ferocious beasts. Li Gan’s eyes were sharp and cold and his hands clenched into fists. Huo Qu Bing stopped looking so shocked and he pulled me behind him to shield me “Third brother Li, are you planning to get rid of the eyewitnesses?”
Li Yan laughed and walked out from behind Li Gan ” Our fates are not what the General cares about, but the life of your precious son surely will be.” I reply “I don’t know why you are all acting so strange. When Qu Bing and I came over all we saw was your highness running over. Before we could greet you, we saw Lord Li running over.” Li Yan smiled “I’m tired and best be off to rest.”
As she walked past me, I said “I never intended to use this for anything, otherwise why wait until today. It’s not out of fear, it’s out of sympathy.” Li Yan disappeared into the night, but her normally straight back appeared bowed, as if she couldn’t stand the pressure. Li Gan coldly shot us a look before also departing.
Huo Qu Bing stared at me with a raised eyebrow and I make a surrender gesture and said I would tell him everything. I only tell him about Li Gan finding the handkerchief, me giving it to Li Yan, and the reason Li Gan tried to shoot me with an arrow many years ago. I don’t say anything about me burning the first handkerchief and then handing a duplicate one to Li Yan later. It’s not that I want to conceal this from him, I just don’t know how to talk about that time without my feelings back then, and I worry how that would make him feel to hear it.
When I finish the story we walk back to our room. He didn’t say anything and just laid there on the pallet watching me get ready for bed. Many times I want to say something but he doesn’t respond. I finally fall silent, and the room descends into an oppressive silence. I look at the him in the mirror and my hearts hurts more and more. I bite my lip and want to say something when he suddenly gets up and walks behind me. He sits down and picks up a brush and starts to brush my hair.
“Qu Bing, I……”
“No need to explain. Those things you did for Meng Jie back then were not wrong, that is your personality. I like you because of who you are. I can only say that I am luckier than Meng Jiu, and in the future all of what you do will be for me.” He pulled me into his embrace and said all this softly.
Despite his tender and sincere tone, I can see his face in the mirror with a devilish glint in his eyes. I push him off me and hit him “You did it on purpose! You pretended to be upset, to care, all to scare me! You’re so petty!”
He laughed and easy dodged me. One hand grabbed my arm while the other snaked around my waist. The two of us fell on the rug “Back then you led me on a merry chase, scaring you a little right now is nothing compared to what you put me through.”
His laughter and mine fill the entire room.
For the next two days, I am like a puppy following behind Huo Qu Bing. When it comes to hunting I’m as good as the men, maybe even better. But now is not the time for me to show my hunting prowess, I just need to show that I’m not a burden tagging along with Huo Qu Bing.
But I have a bad habit. When I see a prey, I always forget to use my bow and arrow. My instinct is to rush it and Huo Qu Bing almost laughs himself to death as he reminds me “Yu Er, you have a bow and arrow on your back you can use. Don’t be like a wolf rushing it with your claws and teeth.” I give him a sidelong glance and he quickly adds “Your claws and teeth look is cute, I really like seeing it.”
Humph! His smiling is all lopsided, who would believe him! From across the mountain I hear loud yells of “A herd of deer!” I immediately clap and shout “Deer meat!” Huo Qu Bing rushed forward “What a great catch. Watch your hubby’s skill, I promise you’ll eat your fill tonight.”
It really was a herd of deer numbering in the thousands, all running through the mountains, the sunlight glistening off their horns. I look at the herd with confusion. Deer herds are never this big, so how did so many deer happen to gather together in one place?
I turn around and see Gong Xun Aou standing next to Huo Qu Bing. I don’t know what he said but Huo Qu Bing’s face turned dark and he looked furious. Gong Xun Aou nodded to me and then said “General wanted to keep this quiet. I only learned about it yesterday night when I heard the General’s personal servant discussing it. Now that you know, keep in under wraps for now and continue to enjoy the hunt.”
I ask “What’s going on?” Huo Qu Bing pointed an arrow towards the deer herd “Li Gan hit my uncle” and his arrow hit a deer directly in the neck. “What, he….” I don’t know what to say. How could Li Gan be so rash and strike Wei Qing?
Wei Qing is very special to Huo Qu Bing, who grew up without his father and back then Wei Qing didn’t have any children yet. The first time Huo Qu Bing got on a horse, Wei Qing put him on. The first time he held a bow and arrow, Wei Qing held his hands. The first story Qu Bing heard was his uncle’s battle against the Xiong Nu. Qu Bing’s lifelong dreams were cemented because of his adulation of his uncle. Even though now it appeared they are at political odds, but no one could take Wei Qing’s position in Huo Qu Bing’s heart. Li Gan hitting Wei Qing is worse than if he hit Huo Qu Bing directly.
“Didn’t you want to eat deer meat? Let’s hurry otherwise all the deer will have left.” Huo Qu Bing rushed towards the canyon and Gong Xun Aou followed. I can see him restraining his anger so I don’t want to discuss it now and let it go, following them down into the canyon.
As I was running, the servant sent to assist us sprained his ankle. I stop to help, not wanting to leave him here since the deer herds could hurt him. Before I know it, Huo Qu Bing and Gong Xun Aou have disappeared. Clearly he’s intending to work out his anger on the hunt. I tell the servant to stay put and rush into the canyon because the sound of the deer herds worries me. As I run in, I suddenly see a woman dressed exactly like me running through the trees. I’m taken aback but have no time to consider it before continuing forward.
The canyon roads get more and more narrow. I can hear the deer herds thundering through the canyon walls. I see Huo Qu Bing standing alone in the middle of the deer herd. Not far from him, Li Gan lays on the ground with an arrow protruding from his chest. A few dead deer are nearby.
Huo Qu Bing takes three arrows and fires them, all hitting a deer that is about to impale him. But behind the deer comes many more, all rushing forward in a stampede. The horns are razor sharp and can pierce Huo Qu Bing at anytime. He uses the dead deer carcasses to build a wall around him and Li Gan for the time being.
All the servants outside the canyon are screaming. Zhao Puo Nu wants to rush in many times but are always pushed back by the deer herd and can only shoot arrows in from outside. Liu Che appears and when he sees Huo Qu Bing’s situation, he yells in rage “Why is no one going in to save him?” The servants reply “There are too many deer, and all are wild and vicious. The terrain is also very dangerous, both sides are sharp cliffs with only a narrow passage in the middle. The army cannot be used.”
Liu Che suddenly snapped to focus and took off his jade and handed it to Gong Xun Aou “I order that the guards at the Gan Quan Palace be summoned to come here for a rescue operation.” When Li Yan sees Huo Qu Bing and Li Gan in the center of the deer herd, her face turns white and she starts to shake. Liu Che hands fist into frustration as he paces back and forth “What happened? What happened to Li Gan?”
All of the servants say nothing, until one boldly answered “We do not know, at that time neither General had a servant with them.” Different than our expression of worry, Wei Kang (Wei Qing’s son) turns to look at Huo Qu Bing with hidden glee in his eyes.
All of Wei Qing’s followers have gradually deserted him, leaving only Ren An still loyal. He is now the Crown Prince’s tutor. I see him standing off to the side exchanging knowing glances with Wei Kang. Wei Qing finally arrives and hears what the servant said. His expression changes and he immediately looks at Wei Kang, Gong Xun Aou, and Ren An. Ren An and Gong Xun Aou lower their heads and refuse to meet Wei Qing’s eyes, while Wei Kang looks at his father with defiance.
I stand on a tree and look down, seeing that Qu Bing’s arrows are dwindling. Once he runs out, how can he face the thousands of angry deer with their sharp horns? I start to shake and my thundering heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest. Calm down, you must calm down, Jin Yu! If you want Qu Bing to live, you must calm down. I jump out of the tree and run towards Zhao Puo Nu,
Qu Bing has only three arrows left and he sends them flying. He immediately leaps over Li Gan and grabs Li Gan’s arrows. He turns and leaps back to his original spot and send three more arrows and three more deer falls. But one deer was right on top of him and it was too late to shoot an arrow at it. The deer’s sharp horn is aimed for his waist, plus more deer are coming towards him. He sends three more arrows flying and at the same time he grabbed a knife with his left hand and sliced the deer’s neck.
His movements were swift as lightning, and despite the life and death situation, his actions were incredible and breathtaking to behold. Liu Che, Wei Qing, and everyone watching couldn’t help but let out a complimentary whoop.
I pull Zhao Puo Nu aside “Can you please chase after Gong Xun He. After he passes the Emperor’s decree, I don’t need you to do anything other than to watch everything he does.” I don’t have time to explain so I tell him this plainly. His face changes and he immediately says “I will not fail you!” His tone was that of an army subordinate receiving orders from a superior, telling me that he will fulfill this assignment with his life. I gratefully nod my head and he takes off.
I take cartons of arrows from a few servants and tied it around me. I climb towards a tree sticking out from a cliff side and then close my eyes before letting out a long wolf howl from deep inside my throat. With the howl, I release my hands and my body falls like a shooting star towards the center of the canyon. When the deer herd heard the wolf howl, they suddenly got frightened and their pattern became confused. The deer run into each other in the narrow canyon road.
I toss my gold ball sash around a tree branch and it slows my fall. I immediately release and repeat three more times, finally getting close to the ground. The last time I release, I look towards the ground for a place to land. Everyone holds their breaths and stares at me in mid-air. I have nowhere to turn and below me is a rampaging deer herd. The speed at which I am falling becomes faster and and it looks like I’m headed towards my demise.
I send my gold balls at three deer heads and all three fall one after another. The fallen deer help shield me from the rampaging herd, and I quickly hide behind them as I release another wolf howl to divert some of the oncoming deer.
Huo Qu Bing yelled “Jin Yu!” He was not happy to see me, and his voice showed his extreme rage and fear. I smile at him, trying to make my way towards him “Watch yourself. If I discover you got injured because you got distracted, I won’t talk to you for an entire year.”
The distance between us is so small, but today it takes us forever to get to each other. Every step is between hundreds of deer rushing past us. When I finally cross over the barrier of dead deer carcasses he constructed, both of us have tears in our eyes. No matter what happens next, no matter if we survive today, at least we’re together now.
The moment I arrive is the moment he sends the last arrow flying. I immediately toss the arrows behind me to him and he takes it and immediately sends more flying. I see the falling deer and my heart thunders as I think about what might have happened if I arrived even a few minutes later.
I’m not as good at archery as him so I let him take care of shooting the deer while I strengthen the barrier with even more deer carcasses. He was shooting his arrow and said “You idiotic woman!” Li Gan, who was laying on the ground not moving, coughed and said “This…..kind…..of ……idiotic…..is your happiness.” I see Huo Qu Bing is bloody but doesn’t have any injuries. I look at Li Gan and see that he’s severely injured by the arrow and is covered with blood.
I put medicine on him but he gives a bittersweet smile “This is Huo Qu Bing’s arrow prowess, so don’t even bother. He didn’t intend to kill me with one shot, but he also wasn’t trying to be kind. If I was treated early I might be fine, but now…..it’s too late.”
I try to stop the bleeding “You have to live. Li Yan is outside and she looks like she might faint. If you died, then she will fall ill again.” Li Gan’s expression was hard to read, it was like a lifetime’s happiness, sorrow, and joy was all flitting across his face.
“Qu Bing, you….why did you do it?” At this time, I don’t want to call him foolish, but he was indeed foolish. If he wanted Li Gan dead, why use such a stupid tactic. Li Gan is a Duke of the Han court, every generation of the Li family has served the Emperor. By killing Li Gan this way, he can’t avoid the death penalty either.
Qu Bing said nothing and just focused on killing the oncoming deer. Li Gan said “Don’t blame him, we were both set up. I was not happy recently so told the servant to leave. I went alone to hunt. Suddenly a woman appeared and began to fight with me. She was vicious and every attack was meant to kill, leaving me no choice but to be deadly back. Seeing the way you are dressed today, I now understand…….” He started coughing and couldn’t finish.
I try to help him breath “I understand now. I saw a woman dressed exactly like me run past. During the deer rampage one already would be distracted. Plus Qu Bing was already angered earlier by what Gong Xun Aou said to him. So he shot you when he saw you attacking someone who he thought was me.”
Li Gan laughed “Gong Xun Aou told you I hit Wei Qing?” Qu Bing said nothing, so Li Gan continued “When I heard my father committed suicide, I was devastated. I went to find the Great General Wei to find out what really happened. Why he didn’t let my father face the enemy. I was prevented from seeing him, and the guards were rude and defamatory towards my father. I was so furious I began to fight with them, and when Wei Qing arrived and tried to break it up, I inadvertently pushed him. When he asked why I was fighting, I couldn’t explain without repeating all the horrible things they said about my father. The two servants made it seem like I started the fight.”
I coldly say “This happened over six months ago, and Gong Xun Aou picks today to tell Qu Bing.” Li Gan starts to violently cough up blood. He grabbed my hand “Ms. Jin Yu, I beg…..beg of you……”
A life was disappearing before my eyes and I can see his anguish and longing. I suddenly realize that all the fighting wasn’t worth it and I say “I don’t know if I can do it, but I promise I will endure Li Yan as much as I can, and will ask Qu Bing not to harm her.”
Li Gan took a few deep breaths, his eyes filled with gratitude. His face was completely white but he looked peaceful. Seeing him at peace, my last doubts went away and I do not regret making this promise to him. He closed his eyes with a slight smile on his face. His hand was still twitching, wanting to finish one more thing. After moments, his hand fell still and his lingering smile was tinged with impossible sadness. I lift his hand and I can see he was trying to write the character for “Li” with his blood.
I am not someone who is sentimental, but seeing this “Li” character, I remember the first time I met him. The drinking, eating, and making merry. My heart ached and I cut the sleeve with the character off and put it in my robe.
From a distance Zhao Puo Nu and some other generals have arrived and are heading towards us and helping to kill the rampaging deer. Huo Qu Bing tossed his bow now that all the arrows are used up and uses his knife to slice his way out. “He’s dead” I say to Qu Bing as I walk up to him and also use my gold balls to strike a deer coming towards me. “With Li Gan dead, there is no corroboration for the set up. But there are still clues, like this suspicious deer herd. I don’t know how they got so many deer in one place, but if I have time I can figure it out.”
Huo Qu Bing held my hand and looked at the distance towards the rescuers “I want you to forget what you heard from Li Gan.” His hands are cold, making my hands cold. My tears come but I force it away “I will!” Zhao Puo Nu arrived and kneeled down towards Huo Qu Bing but turned his face towards me “I did not fail you!”
Zhao Puo Nu saw the dead Li Gan and his face changed color. The other generals asked if the Duke was dead? Huo Qu Bing casually said “Bring Li Gan’s body” and then he walked forward. Zhao Puo Nu bowed to me “If I was faster to arrive, maybe the Duke could have been saved.” I shook my head and silently followed behind Huo Qu Bing.
Liu Che was overjoyed when he saw Huo Qu Bing, but it vanished in an instant. Li Gan’s body was presented and Li Yan promptly fainted. She was immediately taken back to Gan Quan Palace. Liu Che looked at Li Gan’s body, then gave a cold stare at Huo Qu Bing before waving everyone aside. All the servants and lower officials immediately scurried away. A servant wanted me to leave but I refused to move. The normally silent Wei Qing said “Let her stay!” In a few moments, the only people left are Wei Qing, Gong Xun Aou, Gong Xun He and other such high officials.
Liu Che coldly said “Give me a reason. Killing an high official is a capital offense!” Huo Qu Bing walked up and knelt before Liu Che and said nothing at all. Liu Che’s face turned green and Gong Xun Aou knelt down and put the blame on himself for telling Qu Bing about how Li Gan struck Wei Bing a few months ago after Li Guang committed suicide. Liu Che was so angry he kicked Gong Xun Aou “Don’t you know Qu Bing’s temper?”
Gong Xun Aou kept bowing his head and saying that he deserved to die…… In a few moments, Gong Xin Aou’s head is all bloodied from the bowing. Wei Qing looked torn. Many years ago Gong Xun Aou saved his life and he has always been grateful. Wei Qing knelt down in front of Liu Che and bowed “One is my nephew, the other my subordinate. Li Gan’s death, I must also take responsibility. Please punish me.”
Liu Che ignored Wei Qing and pointed at Huo Qu Bing “Seeing you commanding an army, I thought you matured. I thought having a wife and a son you would restrain your temper. But look what happened today! Tell me the truth, what did Li Gan do?”
Huo Qu Bing’s body was ramrod straight but the coldness seeped into his heart. He used his fierce exterior to hide his inner pain. The people he considered his family since childhood finally decided to take him out as well. I can tell Liu Che is also suspicious and wants to give Huo Qu Bing an out. But Huo Qu Bing won’t throw all the blame on a dead person and smear Li Gan’s good name after his death. He also can’t tell the truth, because it might endanger Wei Qing. Doesn’t matter if Wei Qing knew or not, Liu Che would use this prime opportunity to take out Wei Qing. And since Wei Qing is the Wei family’s strongest support, once he’s taken out, the entire family would collapse.
Liu Che waited but still Huo Qu Bing said nothing. He raged “Do you think I won’t kill you?” He pointed at me “Jin Yu, come here!” I walked up and knelt down next to Qu Bing. His body shook slightly but his eyes were still trained on the ground. Liu Che said “Seeing Jin Yu’s actions today, even though I do not favor her, I cannot help but be impressed. This woman has the courage to do anything for you. Do you want to make her a widow?”
Huo Qu Bing’s hands fisted so tightly the veins all popped out. He had grabbed a rock next to him and was tightly clenching it, so much that blood was seeping out from his hands. Liu Che coldly asked “Or let Jin Yu accompany you into the grave?”
I took Qu Bing’s hand and opened it, removing the jagged rock pieces and cleaning it up. I said “The other hand” and he handed it me. I clean the rocks from that hand and use a handkerchief to wipe the blood away. “All done” and then I hold his hand. He didn’t push me away, like a piece of wood, he didn’t even react. I stubbornly hold his hand and stare at him without blinking. After some time, he turned to look at me and I smiled at him. His eyes showed only warmth and apology, but the pain and coldness from earlier went away. He grasped my hand back.
The two of us were acting like we were alone so everyone just stared at us with shock. Liu Che coldly laughed “Jin Yu, it’s probably pointless to ask you if you are willing to die, no?” I respectfully bow my head, grateful to Liu Che. Not sure if he was loathe to part with talent, or he was suspicious of the circumstances of everything that just happened, but he kept trying to give Qu Bing a chance. He was even using my life as a threat to get Qu Bing to open his mouth and tell the truth. “Your majesty, I am willing to be together with the General.”
Liu Che silently paced, stuck between the law and his legacy on one hand, and the life of Huo Qu Bing on another. After some time, he wearily asked “I heard people were trampled to death today in the deer rampage?” A few servants answered “Yes, a total of eight servants were trampled…..” One of the names listed was the servant who “sprained his ankle” to delay me. I look at Ren An, Wei Kang, Gong Xun Aou…..they are sure thorough.
When Liu Che heard it all, he nodded and looked at the sky, talking to himself “Li Gan fell into a deer rampage and was sadly trampled to dead. Give him a state burial!”
Everyone gaped in shock. Zhao Puo Nu and his group kneeled immediately “Thank you, your majesty!” Everyone then reacted and all shouted “Thank you, your majesty!” Some stared in rage and envy at Huo Qu Bing. But under Liu Che’s cold piercing gaze, soon everyone lowered their heads and all knelt down.
Since Huo Qu Bing told me to forget what Li Gan said, I was already accepting of the judgment to come. Suddenly my heart was tumbling and this was the first time I genuinely bow my head to Liu Che while calling out “Thank you, your majesty!”
Liu Che glanced at the still kneeling Huo Qu Bing, his eyes still full of anger, then turning and leaving “Humph! Thank you? If you guys want to thank me and are grateful, then stop creating messes for me.”