Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Translator: Aristophaneso Editor: Chrissy
Feng Zhiwei put down her bottle.
She stood and, without glancing at the man, walked to the riverside and extended her hand.
Yin’er hesitated in fear. Feng Zhiwei smiled. “Take my hand. No one wants you to die today.”
When she had pulled up the soaked girl, Feng Zhiwei looked over her thin and wet clothes clinging to her every curve. She had no undergarments on, and after a moment of thought, Feng Zhiwei took off her own thin coat and wrapped it around her.
Even though this smile-selling girl might not care about walking down the street naked, as a woman, Feng Zhiwei wasn’t willing to let her walk past that man like this.
Yin’er looked at her gratefully and said in a quiet voice, “I am from Lan Xiang Yard over there… Big Sis, if you ever need me, you can find me there.”
Feng Zhiwei smiled and patted her shoulder. The girl didn’t dare to take another look at the man. She wrapped herself deeper into the coat and slowly walked away.
The cold wind blew, and Feng Zhiwei shivered in her thin clothes, hugging herself as she looked out onto the river.
A bottle was suddenly passed over.
The clean and slender fingers holding it were steady as if it had an everlasting indifference.
Feng Zhiwei examined the brown bottle and frowned lightly. “That’s mine.”
A robe was then offered.
“In exchange for your wine.”
Feng Zhiwei took it without a hint of courtesy. “This is a bad deal for you.”
“I don’t mind.” The man smiled, the corner of his eyes creasing upward ever so slightly, transforming his face and giving the impression of a gorgeous cherry blossom. “You taught me a move today; this is my tuition offering.”
Feng Zhiwei remained silent. The water reflected the man’s face, revealing to the world nothing of his inscrutable character. He had a thousand faces that changed at a moment’s notice, and in the brief interactions she had with him, his aura and temperament had transformed three times. When she first met him, he had been an elegant and capable man living peacefully in the mountains; when he had pushed a person into the river, he was arrogant like a bright gold Mandala Flower; and with his smile, he was a beautiful cherry blossom, almost feminine in his beauty.
For people like him, there was only one word: dangerous.
But the man was seemingly unaware of the thoughts running through her head, and he suddenly smiled again. “The river winds are strong, you shouldn’t get a cold. Let’s go somewhere else.”
Feng Zhiwei said nothing and just followed. Around a turn, an arched stone bridge loomed. It was huge but clearly damaged and ill-maintained as if it were abandoned.
They climbed the bridge. The stone railing on both sides was large and blocked the winds. It was a good location to settle, and so the duo sat on the ground. The man still held Feng Zhiwei’s bottle and drank some before passing it back to Zhiwei.
Feng Zhiwei was stunned for a moment. She was not used to sharing a bottle with a man, and she hadn’t expected the noble Gong Zi to drink such a cheap rice wine. The man obviously despised intimacy but was willing to drink wine and share a bottle with her.
She thought for a moment and then wiped the mouth of the bottle with her sleeve before drinking carefully.
For a moment, she thought that that person would be angry, but he wasn’t even looking at her. His head pointed upward as he gazed at the boundless sky. Feng Zhiwei lifted her eyes as well. The bridge was arched into the sky, and from where they sat, the boundless night and cold moon were clear as if the whole capital lay around them. The small crisscrossing field roads and the lofty royal palace lay in their sight.
Feng Zhiwei took another mouthful of the hot and burning wine, and with glittering eyes, she asked, “You are very familiar with this place.”
“This bridge was the greatest bridge of Wang Du, Capital of the Da Cheng Dynasty. It’s said that the founding Emperor built it for his Empress.” The man eyes were half closed, and his voice was relaxed. “The Empress liked impressive and magnificent things, and this bridge was built so that she could stand and overlook everything she ruled. The bridge was named the First Bridge of Da Cheng. Six hundred years ago, the Empress often came to the bridge in disguise, leaving behind many tales.”
Feng Zhiwei smiled and replied, “It’s very beautiful.”
In her heart, though, Zhiwei didn’t think that a man like him would be moved by tales of a dead dynasty.
“Da Cheng’s dynasty was uprooted, the Tian Sheng Emperor was conquered, and Wang Du became Di Jing. Heaven and earth were settled. When the Emperor met the officials of Da Cheng Dynasty, it was here. That day, all of the surviving officials were grass in the blowing wind as they all kowtowed at his feet.”
The man’s voice was calm but full of pride. Feng Zhiwei wiped her lips as her heart beat fast. She smiled chillingly, “They bent to the bloody sword.”
The man turned, and his gaze was like a blade; Feng Zhiwei met his eyes, smiling softly as she met his gaze with her own.
After a moment, the man pulled his eyes away and chuckled. “Yes, the winner is crowned, and the loser becomes a bandit. The old officials were lucky that they are still officials for the Emperor. They might not even have the chance to be a bandit.”
Feng Zhiwei remained silent; if they couldn’t be bandits, all that was left was death.
She smiled faintly and reverted to the old topic. “Such a beautiful bridge. Why was it abandoned?”
“The world was conquered, and the Emperor brought his family to the capital. When his favorite Shao Ning Princess was carried onto the bridge, she cried and threw a tantrum. The Astrologers passed around rumors that this was a bad omen.”
“Three years later,” the man paused for a moment as he took the bottle and drank, “three years later, the Third Prince committed treason and tried to force the Emperor to abdicate. In the attack, three members of the imperial family died, four were injured, and one crippled. The bridge has been abandoned ever since.”
The thrilling history of the royal families dropped indifferently from his mouth. Even though his words were simple, it brought with it a faint scent of hurtling winds and rains of blood. Feng Zhiwei felt the coldness anew and pulled her robe closer.
On this great bridge were the memories of the Empress’ footprints and the fading cry of the last Emperor. Was it just winter wind, or were there unwilling spirits in the air?
And why did this brilliant and mysterious man have such unusual feelings for this bridge?
He was so familiar with it; did he ever pace its length on sleepless nights?
But none of this had anything to do with her. For her to even talk and drink with this stranger through the night was already abnormal. In her loneliest and most vulnerable moment, she had met another lonely soul.
And just as he would not ask her why she was here, she would not ask about the loneliness and coldness in his eyes.
When the bottle was almost empty, the first lights of dawn had spread its fingers in the sky. Feng Zhiwei poured the last drops to the first beams of the morning sun, smiling, “This last drop, I toast to the lonely bridge. Our earthly things come and go, but the bridge remains.”
Then she stood while shaking her wrist in a gentle motion. She slipped out from the robe, and, without looking back, walked away.
The first morning lights carried the paleness of snow and caressed her shoulders; the back of the soft and girl back was straight.
That man sat while watching her walk away. His eyes glittered, and after a moment, he asked, “Ning Cheng, where do you think will she go?”