Under a glittering blanket of white snow, night settled.
Shen Zechuan could not stay any longer. As he was leaving, Xiao Chi’ye also rose. He retrieved his greatcoat from the rack and handed it to him.
“I haven’t seen this sword of yours before,” Xiao Chi’ye leant over and picked up Rising Snow, which leapt lightly into his hand. “A new acquisition?”
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 52: Accusations”
In the darkness, Xiao Chi’ye swiped a thumb across the corner of his lips, where a trace of wine remained. He said, “If we take one each, neither of us misses out.”
Shen Zechuan looked around at him.
Xiao Chi’ye flashed a smile at him. “Every score in its own time. Aren’t you going to keep stepping on me out there anyway? Tread on, Lanzhou, I’m going to claim it all back, with interest.”
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 51: The General”
“I was only testing the waters.” Xiao Chi’ye’s eyes were steely. “Trust happens like an undressing. We proceed in due order, one layer at a time, to finally arrive at this candid conversation today. You’re right— after the Nanling incident, I had hoped that Hai Liangyi’s cabinet might undergo some changes. Unfortunately, he still appointed Xue Xiuzhuo of the Eight Families to a key position. It was evidence that even at his position, with his overwhelming influence, he remained subject to pressure from the aristocracy. In these times, the Xiao family is a single pillar under a tipping roof.”
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 50: The Same Boat”
As Xiao Chi’ye made his way towards the Palace, Shen Zechuan was already at Mingli Hall, having been presented to Li Jianheng and appointed Adjudicator of the Brocade Guard, a fifth grade office. His waist-badge, correspondingly, was changed to a gilded bronze token, engraved with the motif of a Xiezhi beast frolicking amongst clouds. One side read “Guard”, and the other read “Imperial Escort”.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 49: Cold Light”
Li Jianheng was having a nightmare.
In his dreams, he was back at the Nanling hunting grounds on that stormy night, and branches whipped viciously at his face as he dodged frantically, shielding his head with his arms.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 48: Springing the Trap”
Li Jianheng shook his legs frantically, kicking the head away from himself. He was beyond caring about appearances now, and would have shrunk himself into the throne if he could have managed it. There was a thunderous ringing in his ears, and he watched as fresh blood soaked into his robes, feeling as though a fist had tightened around his throat. He could not produce a single word.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 47: Contention”
Hua Xiangyi was not, in fact, Qi Zhuyin’s age, but two years her junior. In recent months, tucked away in the depths of the Palace, she had grown a little gaunt. When she saw Qi Shiyu’s portrait laid out on the Dowager’s desk, it all became clear to her.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 46: The Banquet”
Even if Shen Zechuan’s heart had held itself still to this point, those two words would have set it aquiver. Xiao Chi’ye’s handkerchief laid quietly in his sleeve pocket, like a fistful of fire. And as if it could somehow obey its owner’s command, the fire had traced an ascending path to the base of his ears. Shen Zechuan was only too aware of how eye-catching that spot of crimson would be against the snow-white of his skin. Even if he spoke up to deny it, he would have no credibility at all.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 45: New Blade”
“Maybe so,” Xiao Chi’ye looked down at him, “but the person empowered to directly influence the outcome at the battlefront in Zhongbo was Shen Wei.”
With his gaze lowered like that, his eyes were cloaked in an illusion of warmth. The light in them from before had not gone out entirely, and rippled still in his pupils, like fireflies on a summer’s night.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 44: Night talk”
A few rounds of wine in, much of the sense of estrangement within the room had dissipated. Though the old familiarity remained out of reach, they had thawed enough to make easy conversation.
Continue reading “Book One, Chapter 43: Atlas”