So… We need to inform you all that after much frustration, both Tnyhy and me had made a decision to change something from the raws (from ‘head’ to ‘shoulder’) because it make much more sense with what follow next.
Edited by Tnyhy
Chapter 125: Compelled to Compete (Part 2)
“No!” Shen Xin did not wait for Shen Miao to speak and flatly refused it. His face turned cold and he did not take into account Emperor Wen Hui’s expression, before looking at Princess Ming An and said word for word, “Your Highness the Princess had said that it will be a game so it should be carried out as a game, so why the need to include one’s life. The tribute banquet is a happy event, and it is not advisable to see knives and swords during the banquet.”
When Luo Xue Yan saw Shen Xin speaking, she also could not resist but to pinch the teacup in front of her. At that time, they did not know about Shen Miao and Cai Lin gambling with their lives during the academy examinations, and when they got to know it upon their return to the capital, they had incessantly palpitations. If they were present, they would definitely not let Shen Miao use her life as a gambling stake. Now this Princess Ming An from the Qin country clearly had ill-intentions, so how could they let Shen Miao take the risks.
Who knew that when Shen Xin said those words, HuangFu Hao unexpectedly opened his mouth and said with a laugh, “Even so, this is to make one treat the game seriously, and this represent the Great Qin’s heart to the Ming Qi. General Shen, it is only letting Young Lady Shen to play a game with one’s Younger Sister, can it be that General Shen is afraid? Or is it that the Ming Qi is as such and cannot afford to lose?” His words were filled with barbs as he looked towards Emperor Wen Hui, “If the Ming Qi is afraid of losing, then it is of no harm to let Ming An have her spirits dampened.”
Since the matter had risen to the reputation of the country, if Emperor Wen Hui remained silent, he would have been humiliated in front of the officials, and how would he then be able to stand up as a monarch. He did not look at Shen Xin and directly said to Shen Miao, “Since Princess Ming An is interested, Shen Miao, you will accompany Princess Ming An to play for a round.”
Since the Emperor’s had spoken, it was useless for Shen Xin to say anything else. Shen Qiu clenched both of his fists, and Luo Tan and Feng An Ning looked at one another uneasily.
Shen Miao said softly, “Yes.”
There was no panic in her expression and that made everyone slightly startled. Princess Ming An looked over at Shen Miao and met her gaze.
Shen Miao’s eyes were extremely clear, as if they were as flawless as those of a child. Originally with this pair of eyes, one could see about anything with just one look. But when such a pair of eyes looked at Princess Ming An, those calm eyes seemed to have precipitated a thousand of years of water, and a single wave could not be incited. Thus one could not see any trace of emotion.
Others were unable to see thoroughly.
Princess Ming An did not have any reason to be upset, and she smiled as she got her personal maid to bring bow and arrows over. She then laughed as she stared at Shen Miao, “This is the rules that BenGong plays with in the Great Qin. Both persons will stay at a distance staring at the other and would not move, one person will be blindfolded as one uses the bow, and also will determine the location of which part of the body the fruit will be at. The person will just need to shoot at it.” She did not let any expression of Shen Miao slip by, “Does Young Lady Shen understand?”
Everyone surrounding sucked in a breath of cold air. Last time at the academy examinations, Shen Miao and Cai Lin separately placed the fruit on their heads and their eyes were open wide. To shoot while being blindfolded, was not this playing with other people’s life? Just listening to it made one feel absolutely horrified. Shen Xin and Luo Xue Yan were already very furious.
Shen Miao gently smiled, as if she was not scared by Princess Ming An’s words and said, “Thanking Princess for informing.”
She being this calm, did not lose the Ming Qi’s vigour and on the spot, half of the people immediately could not help but value her higher. HuangFu Hao stared at her and an odd look appeared in his eyes.
Luo Tan pulled the corner of Shen Miao’s robes, “Biao Youngest Sister, why not I go for you? I practice martial arts and know a little. If it is impossible, then one can just avoid it.”
Shen Miao shook her head, and looked towards Shen Xin and Luo Xue Yan who still wanted to block it, “No need to worry. Since she could say that, it meant that she has the confidence not to shoot me. If she were to shoot me, then they would be in a lot of trouble. HuangFu Hao and Ming An are clever people and will not do silly things. These actions are all done just to scare me and make a fool out of me.”
“But Younger Sister,” Shen Qiu held her shoulder worriedly, “You will be scared alone. No matter if she were to shoot you, how can one let you go alone?”
“I am not afraid.” Shen Miao warmly replied, “Moreover if she were to hurt me, I will also have a chance, so how will I let her off easily?” When she said those words, the corner of her lips slightly hooked up. She was clearly smiling but it made others feel a chill.
Luo Ling patted Shen Miao’s shoulder and said lightly, “Be careful.”
Shen Miao nodded her head and went directly to the middle of the hall.
She and Princess Ming An actually walked together towards the main area of the hall, but if one did not compare one would not know that when both of them walked together, there was a wrong illusion that appeared. Princess Ming An was a true blue-blood nobility, growing up in an Imperial family with a delicate, charming and beautiful frame, and should be respectable and honourable, but when walking beside Shen Miao, one of Shen Miao hands was on top of the other with a perfectly straight back, and she did not glance to the left of right when she walked, and looked at the other at eye-level. That dignified air of grace and bearing, actually made Princess Ming An seem worthless.
Gradually, sighs were heard in the hall.
HuangFu Hao’s expression gradually became ugly.
In all fairness it was not because of Princess Ming An’s insolent appearance, but it was Shen Miao’s calmness and magnanimity that made others beside her, to look like filthy with grime. However when one think about it, it was outrageous as Shen Miao was obviously a daughter of an official, and Princess Ming An grew up in a Palace since young, so how could she not be comparable to Shen Miao?
They naturally did not know, that Shen Miao was originally an Empress for many years in the Inner Palace and because of Fu Xiu Yi, she was extremely demanding of herself to be the absolute best, and when she was in the Qin country, she also eventually developed a different level of tolerance through experience. If there was not for the existence of Mei Furen fighting in the dark and Fu Xiu Yi’s connivance, actually she would have been a good Empress that could mother the entire nation.
It was only that this perfect dream was at the end broken into pieces in the past, but this made her to be unable to conceal her brilliance in this lifetime.
Princess Ming An did not notice everyone’s stares, and only looked at Shen Miao as she held the shiny black longbow in her hands. That bow most likely, was made of top-notch wood and was soaked in special herbs as it looked very hard and cumbersome. Princess Ming An said to Shen Miao, “This is BenGong’s bow. Let us shoot one bamboo arrow each alright? BenGong will shoot an arrow at you, then it will be changed to you pulling the bow.”
The words spoken had already set the sequential order. At the side of Ming Qi, there were people who had indignant expressions, as Princess Ming An was obviously bullying others.
But Shen Miao only indifferently complied and she appeared not to be shaken.
The more she appeared not to care, the more Princess Ming An felt stifled and panicky. She swept her eyes across the noble guests’ section, and suddenly her eyes brightened before she sweetly said, “But since we are competing here, one fear that the other will feel unfair about it. Why not let His Highness Prince Rui of the Great Liang be the judge, and stand here to inspect the bow and arrows to ensure that there is no fraud.” Finishing, her eyes looked at Prince Rui affectionately.
The young females of Ming Qi that were seated, were scolding this Princess Ming An in their hearts for being ignorant of shame. This was clearly taking the opportunity to get closer to Prince Rui, and one felt that it was due to being attracted to Prince Rui’s beauty. However Prince Rui’s actions were usually unbridled and one thought that he would not agree to it, since Princess Ming An’s request came out of nowhere.
Who knew that when Prince Rui heard it, he thought a little before nodding, “Alright.”
This was once again beyond the expectations of everyone, and even Emperor Wen Hui and HuangFu Hao took a double take at Prince Rui. One only saw Prince Rui stood up lazily from his seat and as his legs were long, he only took two steps to reach the middle of the hall and stood beside Shen Miao and Princess Ming An.
Princess Ming An overjoyed at the turn of events, and delicately reached her hands out to put the bow into Prince Rui’s hands and smiled, “Then may Prince Rui first inspect this bow and see if there are any issues.”
At the Princes’ sitting area, Prince Zhuo sneered and whispered, “This Qin Princess is not one who knows her place, and actually make things difficult in front of so many people.” These words used were filled with disdain.
“But the Young Lady of the Shen family is really unexpected.” Prince Jing looked at Shen Miao who was standing side by side with Princess Ming An, “To be so calm, even if it was an act, it is an extraordinary courage.”
“Speaking of which,” Prince Zhou touched his chin, “This Young Lady of the Shen family has really blossomed and gotten more tasteful.” He looked towards Fu Xiu Yi who was not speaking a single word, “Number Nine, do you regret?”
Fu Xiu Yi lightly said, “Fourth Older Brother is joking.”
Behind Fu Xiu Yi, there was a plainly clad male quietly standing there. His gaze crossed over everyone and fell onto the purple clad young female. Pei Lang looked very calm, as if he was looking at a stranger for the first time, but the hands in his sleeves were clenched into fists and were also slightly trembling.
It had been two years. This young female grew up to be even more attractive and like what she had said, she was ‘invited’ back by the Heavenly family. Upon returning back to the capital, trouble came knocking one after another. Trees long for peace but the wind would never cease. Shen Miao did not do anything, but there would be people who will take the initiative to look for her.
However Pei Ling knew that Shen Miao would not let herself be caught in any awkward position. This was because she has a heart that was more vicious than anyone else.
Prince Rui returned the bow to Princess Ming An quickly, and she took it back shyly before saying to Shen Miao, “May Young Lady Shen stand over there and…” She picked an apple from the maid and handed it to Shen Miao with a smile, “Place this on Young Lady’s shoulder.”
Shen Qiu who was sitting down suddenly clenched his fist.
“Yes.” Shen Miao’s eyes hanged and walked away after taking the apple.
Everyone were all looking at her actions, while Princess Ming An allowed others to tie a black cloth over her eyes. Prince Rui however walked over to Shen Miao’s side.
Under watchful eyes, he took the apple from Shen Miao’s hands. Shen Miao was surprised for a moment as Prince Rui placed the apple gently on her shoulder.
Shen Miao looked up at him.
Because there was something on her shoulder, she was afraid that the apple will fall off during big movements, so Shen Miao could only look at him motionlessly. The young male was very tall and even if Shen Miao had grown within these two years, she only reached to the level of his chest. She could see his embroidered gold buttons and also perceived the meaningful look in his eyes.
The silver mask exposed the handsome man’s chin and red lips. The corner of his mouth was slightly hooked up, making one want to take the mask off to see if the person had a smiling expression on. His dark eyes were like the starts and autumn water, when they look over, it seemed to be gentle but also looked like they were bantering.
He placed the apple on Shen Miao’s shoulder and bent one finger to stroke Shen Miao’s hair, like gently caressing a little captive beast. But it was only for a short moment before it was withdrawn. Because of his body blocking at the side, when others looked over, they would only feel that this Prince Rui of the Great Liang was only placing the apple properly onto Shen Miao, and did not make any other action.
He turned and walked to the side, and looked as if he was watching a good show as he folded his hands.
Shen Miao’s attention once again was attracted to Princess Ming An as Princess Ming An slowly pulled open the bow.
That bow seemed to be very heavy and Princess Ming An pulled it open arduously. As she pulled laboriously, the more the bow arched, the heavier everyone’s hearts were. Especially Shen Xin’s entire family, their faces were as deep as water.
The fuller the bow was bent, the more strength Princess Ming An had, and the greater the strength the arrowhead had, meant that Shen Miao was even more at danger. One fear that when the arrow was shot, the residue force was able to knock Shen Miao down. This match before one’s eyes was not like what Princess Ming An mentioned, just a game, but instead it was a big matter regarding a country’s reputation. If one lost, the reputation was gone. If one showed fear, the reputation was also gone. Actually, between Shen Miao and Princess Ming An, everyone were optimistic about Princess Ming An, and hoped that Shen Miao would not lose too badly.
Shen Miao quietly looked at the black cloth that was tied in front of Princess Ming An’s eyes. One did not know if Princess Ming An was deliberately torturing Shen Miao, as she pulled the bow very slowly, and the longbow let out a thin sound that lingered in the hearts of everyone present.
Shen Miao’s eyes were dazed, as what appeared in front of her was not the tribute banquet, but the foreign Qin country. The Princes and Princesses of the Qin country and the officials’ daughters were surrounding her and ridiculing her. She was wearing a robe which was re-stitched numerous times, and there was a fruit on her shoulder as she looked wide eyed at the person opposite her.
That person opposite was arrogant and despotic, and wore exquisitely clothes with eyes tied with a white cloth. She publicised to the crowd around her, “See! Today let the Ming Qi’s Empress hold up an apple on her head for BenGong. Later you all see clearly for BenGong if this Ming Qi’s Empress from a military lineage, would be so scared that she pee in her pants? Hahaha. One must see clearly and tell BenGong!”
She arrogantly pulled the bow and that arrow shot out with a ‘xiu’. She shot off a little, but it was from the left to right and top to bottom and shot through Shen Miao’s hair, shotting open her clothes. Shen Miao screamed in panic and covered her clothes tightly, but could hear that ridiculing laughter getting louder.
What a humiliating memory. But it now all started to combine together.
Shen Miao’s lips slowly hooked up but she did not know if it was bitterness or hatred, as a dark fog slowly spread to the bottom of her clear eyes, making them unfathomable.
Prince Rui who was at the side begun to quietly bend his fingers, and paused for a while before quietly releasing.
Her small movements of slightly tilting her shoulder were so small, that everyone could not see them at all.