Chapter 167 : The White Flower Falls from Grace
Trigger Warning: kidnapping, implied rape, mention of group rape, domestic violence
At the sight of him, Jiang Su Su’s heart instantly chilled.
“Who are you” she asked as she backed away.
The man chuckled roguishly.
“In the middle of the night, what young miss would appear in such a desolate and godforsaken place to meet their lover.
But since your little lover hasn’t come, you must be sad.
Why don’t I comfort you”
Jiang Su Su was startled because she knew that this person wasn’t the one who sent the letter.
Her legs couldn’t help but tremble at this man in coarse clothes who was obviously a vicious brute.
Nonetheless, she forced herself to calm down and then demanded, “What do you want to do Do you know who I am My father is a high-ranking official in the capital! Take advantage of this opportunity while my guards aren’t here and scram.”
The man spat.
He didn’t move, but instead sneered.
“Scarface Li has never let anything he wants fly away.
An official from the capital Can an official from the capital raise such a shameless girl You think I don’t know.
Young Miss, even if you say you’re a princess or whatever, I can still do whatever I want to your body!”
When she realised that this person was dead set on exploiting the situation and the young master who sent the letter still hadn’t arrived, Jiang Su Su fell into a panic.
She turned on her heel and ran.
“Help, save me!” she shouted as loudly as she could.
But who could come to her rescue in this desolate place Earlier, she’d run for a long time to throw off the guards, and over the vast distance, her voice only spread so far before dissipating.
Then suddenly, something yanked her backwards and a harsh slap fell on her face.
This person wasn’t Jiang Quan, so there was no chance that he’d go easy on her.
Jiang Su Su was struck so hard that she saw stars and blood dripped from the corner of her mouth.
The man examined her from top to bottom, then grinned.
“Feisty and pretty.
Well, I’ve made a good deal today! I’ll take you back to the mountain and we’ll consummate our marriage tonight!” After saying so, he ignored Jiang Su Su’s ineffectual struggles and simply heaved her onto his shoulders and walked into the forest.
After the man left with Jiang Su Su, a solitary figure appeared from within its depths.
Moonlight fell on their defined features, revealing it to be Ye Feng.
He let out a soft whistle, knowing that Jiang Ruan’s task was completed.
Today’s letter was merely handed from Jiang Ruan to Jiang Su Su through his hands, and as for this desolate forest, it was on the path that mountain bandits took to return to their dens every night.
Ye Feng knew this because he was a Jinyi guard, but he didn’t understand how Jiang Ruan, a girl sequestered in the boudoir, would know.
But in the end, he was mostly impressed with her godlike foresight.
Perhaps it was because they were both Jiang daughters that she was so familiar with Jiang Su Su’s nature, and knew that upon seeing the letter, she would inevitably escape and refuse to be a nun.
Ye Feng sighed to himself, thinking that this plan of Jiang Ruan’s was truly ruthless.
She gave Jiang Su Su a thread of hope, then made it disappear before her eyes.
One could imagine Jiang Su Su’s mental collapse.
Jiang Ruan hadn’t ordered people to take Jiang Su Su away directly, but instead guided her little by little into a series of peculiar coincidences.
Even if Jiang Quan tried to investigate later, he would only find that Jiang Su Su ran from the carriage of her own volition.
Jiang Su Su’s ending would be entirely by her own hand.
When she thought of it in the future, would her intestines turn green from regret
What kind of person was this bandit, with his crude and rough manners; there was no chance that he would treat Jiang Su Su gently.
Therefore, once Jiang Su Su entered the bandits’ nest, it would be like facing tigers and wolves.
The bandits were generous with their women but based on Jiang Su Su’s arrogance, she would definitely refuse to tenderly serve the man, and as a consequence would definitely evoke his anger.
Just the thought of her fate caused Ye Feng to sigh.
There were many ways to torture people in the world, but few could destroy their minds completely.
Jiang Su Su wanted to climb the social ladder and live a life of luxury and power, but as soon as she entered the mountain bandit’s den, it was impossible to leave easily.
For her, wouldn’t living a life lower than the lowest pauper be worse than beating or killing her
Ye Feng couldn’t help shuddering as he stood against the cold, blustery wind.
This future mistress of theirs was too powerful and her ability to kill without drawing blood was the strongest he had ever seen.
He had to serve her carefully and not annoy her in the future.
Even disregarding the way his master listened to her in all things, she could deal with the entire Jinying Wangfu by herself.
After standing there for a while , Ye Feng seemed to suddenly remember something and hastily flew away.
A little later, in a hidden cave some miles away, a young lady sat within, glaring at him.
She breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of his return, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Is it done”
Ye Feng blinked at Lian Qiao in astonishment.
He thought her first words would be to scold him, not to ask about the mission.
He snapped his fingers.
“Of course it’s done.”
The place was desolate and windy yet Lian Qiao only wore a thin emerald green dress.
Seeing this, Ye Feng felt a smidgen of guilt in his heart; he had been too impulsive and simply kidnapped Lian Qiao.
She couldn’t return to the residence on her own and was afraid of delaying the task Jiang Ruan handed to her, so she could only hand the letter to him.
And in order to prove that he could handle small things like this, Ye Feng brought her along with him in spite of her vigorous protests.
Lian Qiao was still rubbing her nose when she suddenly felt a warmth on her body.
When she looked up, she saw that Ye Feng had taken off his outer robe and settled it over her shoulders.
“Ahem, it was my fault today for involving you,” he said.
Turning away, Lian Qiao scowled and scolded him with a few sentences, but her face quietly turned red.
Ye Feng was also a little embarrassed when he saw this, and the atmosphere within the cave suddenly became a little strange.
He coughed lightly.
“Let’s go back.”
Once, the two of them returned to the Jinying Wangfu, Lu Zhu hurried up to Lian Qiao as soon as she stepped foot into the courtyard.
It was only after she examined her from head to toe and saw that nothing was wrong did she release a sigh of relief.
“Where did you go Why are you only back now”
Bai Zhi spotted Ye Feng standing outside the yard, then gave Lian Qiao a thoughtful glance before saying quietly, “Let’s talk inside.”
Once inside, Lian Qiao faithfully reported the day’s events to Jiang Ruan, and finally concluded, “Everything that happened today was because I acted on my own initiative.
Miss, please punish me.”
“I don’t blame you,” Jiang Ruan said.
“It’s the same if Ye Feng does it, they’re all Xiao Shao’s people.”
Lian Qiao hesitated for a moment, then said, “Guardsman Ye only wanted to help, and the task was completed well.
Can Miss please forgive him…”
“I don’t blame him either.” Jiang Ruan felt a little amused.
“Since it’s done, it’s fine.
Go rest early.”
But before she could leave, Lu Zhu turned to Lian Qiao, all smiles.
“Lian Qiao Jiejie really cares about Guardsman Ye, every word seems like it’s to protect him.
What, are you distressed for him”
“You even dare to talk nonsense in front of our Miss, see if I won’t sew your mouth shut,” Lian Qiao immediately retorted.
She wasn’t a soft target in the least.
“I don’t know who’s the one talking and laughing with Jin Er every day.
I also saw you embroidering a handkerchief today, is it for him”
“You…!” Lu Zhu, both embarrassed and anxious, made to hit her, and the two filled the room with noise.
A hint of a smile curled around Jiang Ruan’s lips, perhaps because things had gone smoothly today.
* * *
On an ink-like dark night, deep within the forests and mountains, there was a village where human voices arose, accompanied by the vulgar sounds of scolding wives.
A group of shirtless men were squatting around a doorway with some wine jugs scattered on the ground.
With the thick aroma of alcohol wafting around them, one man said, “I heard Scarface* Li brought a girl back today And a good-looking one too, right”
* 刀疤 (dāobā) – scar from a knife wound.
They have used it as a nickname.
The group consisted of middle-aged men, all with fierce appearances more or less scarred by blades; when combined with the stench of sweat and alcohol, they were the furthest thing from genteel.
“Yeah, who knows what sh** he did to deserve this, she looks like a proper noble lass,” another man said.
“His luck is too good!”
“What proper noble lass,” a fat man said as he wiped sweat from his brows, “I heard that Scarface Li ran into her while she was waiting for her lover.
Meeting for a private tryst like that, how clean can she be” He showed a wretched smile.
“This is just him trying out something fresh and new.
Once the novelty wears off and he gets tired of her, we’ll also get a piece of the action!”
When the others heard this, they all revealed knowing smiles.
This was a deeply hidden mountain bandits’ den almost entirely populated by strong men like them, with not a single elder or child.
Of course, there were also some women abducted from outside, but they had no status here and were more akin to objects to be passed around at will.
Sometimes they were even made to cater to many men at once.
Women didn’t last long in this village because no one could endure such torment for long.
Thus everyone was used to making periodic trips down the mountain to bring back more women.
However, it was indeed rare to see a truly high quality girl like the one today, so everyone was jealous of Scarface Li and grumbled a bit as they sat around together.
In a dilapidated house in the village, once the intriguing sound passed, there was a ‘smack’, and someone used a torch to light an oil lamp .
A thin, faintly stinking blanket lay atop dirty wood boards, and at the moment, it was covered with stains.
A woman was lying on her back.
Her eyes were wide yet unseeing and her originally beautiful face was now full of red scars and slap marks; she had obviously suffered harsh abuse.
As for the rest of her body, there wasn’t a single piece of skin not covered by blue and purple bruises, to the point that it was terrifying to even look at her.
And although her body was arranged in an unbearable posture, she didn’t even twitch.
The long torture had sapped every bit of her strength.
Scarface Li sat up and put on his clothes as he looked over Jiang Su Su.
When his gaze swept over her flawless white neck, something flashed in his eyes, and he shuffled closer to give her a hard kiss.
Jiang Su Su finally seemed to react.
She stutteringly shifted her head away, then angrily spat at Scarface Li.
Scarface Li instantly slapped her in retaliation.
The brutish man’s strength was surprisingly great, and the slap turned her head violently to the side as sweat dampened hair stuck to her cheeks.
A salty taste once again filled her mouth.
“You bit*h, you still refuse to take the easy way, huh!” Scarface Li reached out and roughly squeezed Jiang Su Su’s chin.
“I’d wanted to save this pretty face of yours for a few more days!”
“You’re delusional,” Jiang Su Su sneered.
Even now, her attitude hadn’t softened, and she only hated that she couldn’t peel Scarface Li’s skin off while he was alive and eat his flesh.
“When my father finds me, he won’t let you go!”
The hatred in Jiang Su Su’s eyes enraged Scarface Li, and he slapped her again without hesitation.
“Still dreaming! There has been no shortage of ladies from noble families here.
I don’t think you’re awake yet.
Now that you’ve given your body to me, do you think your official father will tolerate and accept you even if he does find you Rich people are the most selfish people.
I’ve seen it a lot.
At most, they’ll pretend not to know you.
But you still dare to get all pretentious with me- it would seem that you don’t have a very good memory!” After speaking, he snorted coldly, picked up his clothes from the table, and walked out the door without another glance at Jiang Su Su.
As Jiang Su Su lay there, two lines of tears slowly flowed down her cheeks.
She didn’t know how things had turned out like this.
The man who was supposed to save her hadn’t appeared, and instead she had been taken into a bandits’ den.
She couldn’t help trembling as soon as she thought about the scene just now in her mind.
Scarface Li was a devil who used heavy-handed methods to conquer her body.
Jiang Su Su closed her eyes in pain and gripped the blanket; if this was to be her life, where she would be treated like trash even if she managed to escape, it would’ve been better for her to be a nun at the temple.
In addition, what Scarface Li said indeed pierced her heart because it was true.
If any proper family’s girl went through something like this, for example, being kidnapped and taken into a mountain bandits’ den, then their whole lives would be ruined.
Even if they were brought back, they would only be greeted with a bowl of poison.
Then the woman would be free, and the family would preserve their reputation and no longer have to endure mockery.
If it were her in their place, if it were her… Jiang Su Su’s heart trembled at the thought of what Jiang Quan would do.
He would never have the courage to recognize her, and at most, he’d take her as a stranger and turn away.
If this had happened a few years ago, she could have believed that he’d do anything to save her.
But ever since Xia Yan’s incident, ever since Jiang Quan ordered her to become a nun, Jiang Su Su felt a rift between them.
With Jiang Quan being so selfish and focused only on the Jiang family and their reputation, would he really forsake everything for her
She was thinking about these things in her head and the severe pain she was in, when Jiang Su Su heard the door being kicked violently.
She thought that Scarface Li had come back, and her body immediately trembled all over.
Turning her head to look, she discovered that it was actually a group of unfamiliar bare-chested men, all striding towards her with dubious intentions in their eyes.
“What… What do you want to do” Jiang Su Su stuttered out in alarm.
The man in front chuckled.
“Young Miss, no need to be scared.
Brother Scarface said you don’t know the rules, so he sent us to teach you.
Don’t be afraid , we’re very gentle.”
“No… No…” Jiang Su Su wanted to run, but after being tossed around by Scarface Li, she hardly had any strength left, so how could she still struggle She was soon pinned under their bodies.
* * *
Fateful encounters could happen anywhere.
For example, now, in a secluded corner of the palace, namely, the Thirteenth Prince’s residence, Xuan Pei stood with his hands behind his back and looked coldly at the palace maid kneeling on the ground before him.
The surrounding eunuchs and maids, usually so arrogant, didn’t dare to lift their heads.
The kneeling maid cried and begged, “Your Highness, this slave was only momentarily possessed, I’ll never do it again.
Your Highness, please spare me, for the sake of my many years of service please spare me!”
Two palace maids stood with lanterns at each side in the dark night.
Amid the play of light and shadow, the tender youth’s face became deep.
The more they looked, the more the scatterbrained young lad of the rumours faded away, revealing a pair of still, unwavering eyes beneath a delicate and sweet facade.
When the maid lifted her head and met his eyes, she was instantly stunned by their apathy.
He seemed like a demon who had crawled out from the underworld to claim the life of a murderer.
Xuan Pei gave her a slow look.
“Really It is precisely because you’ve followed me for so long that if I am lenient, it would be impossible to uphold standards in the future.
Imperial Father values discipline the most.”
The maid glanced at him disbelievingly, not knowing if he was pretending to be stupid or not.
If he was stupid, how could he so accurately identify her, a spy If he wasn’t, and Xuan Pei knew she was from that person, how could he dare to punish her so easily
After having accompanied the incompetent Thirteenth Prince for so long, she thought that she’d always be able to control him and keep him firmly in her grasp, and so she’d hit and scolded him since he was young.
Yet at some unknown time, this child seemed to have changed into a different person.
No longer did he cower behind people, but instead had become quite intimidating himself.
It seemed that Xuan Pei began to change the day Jiang Ruan defended him in front of Princess He Yi.
The maid couldn’t understand why such a small thing could change Xuan Pei.
Or, from a different angle, the previous Xuan Pei was fake, and he used it as a pretext to tear away his mask
She looked up and examined Xuan Pei again, only to find to her surprise that she couldn’t associate the youth before her to the child in her memories.
Although the person in front of her wasn’t fully grown yet, he already had a faintly imperial demeanour; although his eyes were as clear as glass, it was impossible to see their depths.
He always had a bright smile on his face, even when being rebuked.
His joy and anger were indistinguishable- when had he grown into such a mysterious and inscrutable person
Xuan Pei gave a shallow smile to her look.
“So, it’s not that this prince doesn’t want to forgive you, it’s just that my hands are truly tied.” After speaking, he turned away, and the auspicious beast embroidered on his robe flashed its teeth and claws in the darkness.
His voice floated along with a midnight breeze, carrying a young man’s cruelty.
“Beat her to death.”
The palace maid suddenly understood.
She screamed, “Your Highness, no– don’t–” Her mouth was immediately gagged, and a group of stout, older women emerged to drag her away sobbing and struggling.
Everyone was silent as they watched their young prince calmly return to his seat beside the door.
The eunuchs and maids in this courtyard were mixed and there were few present who hadn’t bullied Xuan Pei, but now they all pointed their noses towards their chests, not daring to speak a single word.
After witnessing Xuan Pei’s methods, how could they have any other thoughts They only felt fear.
The maid just now was Xuan Pei’s personal maid and had bullied him for many years.
Although she could be considered a spy with a powerful backer, perhaps it was because she had been staying by his side for so long that she had assumed that he was incompetent and didn’t have any future prospects thus she began to act unbridled.
However, Xuan Pei had started acting differently ever since he testified for Jiang Ruan, but this maid hadn’t noticed a thing and was still overwhelmingly arrogant, not knowing that Xuan Pei would show his hand by dealing with her first.
He only needed to find a random excuse to have her beaten to death.
It wasn’t as if no one had thought of protesting, but they thought that Thirteenth Prince was still a youthful boy with a soft heart, and no matter how his personal maid walked over him, she could appease him with just a few words until he forgave all offences.
Who knew that their little master could be so decisive and deal with her without batting an eye As those within the courtyard pondered, some were happy, and some tensed.
Xuan Pei glanced at the people in the courtyard with a tiny smile.
Everyone caught by those eyes were shocked by his aggressive aura, and didn’t dare to look directly at him.
“Since she is dead, you can take her place as my personal maid,” Xuan Pei said slowly as he casually gestured at a fresh-faced maid in the crowd.
That maid had only been assigned to his courtyard two days ago and was a third-rank maid as well.
Upon suddenly being elevated to first-rank, she immediately bowed and said, “Your servant, Ming Yue, thanks Your Highness for his favour.”
The second-rank maids in the courtyard had wanted to promote themselves for the role but hadn’t expected to be supplanted by a newcomer, and were all discontent and wanted to protest.
However, when faced with Xuan Pei’s cold smile, they couldn’t help but shiver, thinking that their young master was no longer someone they could push around.
They could only suppress their resentments and forcibly hold themselves back.
Xuan Pei waved his hand, then turned to Ming Yue.
“You follow me inside, everyone else is dismissed.”
The servants glanced at each other in dismay with a few maids glaring at Ming Yue before they retreated.
Xuan Pei went in and sat at the desk; Ming Yue followed him inside, closed the door, then stood before him.
Only then did Xuan Pei lift his head.
“You were sent by Jinying Wang”
Ming Yue nodded.
Xuan Pei’s brows furrowed into a frown.
“So nosy.” The frown lent him a childish air, making him look more like a child having a tantrum.
Ming Yue thought a bit.
“It was Hong’an Junzhu who thought that Your Highness lacked someone to do things, so Master sent me.”
“So it’s her!” Xuan Pei sat up straight.
With his little body, it was a bit funny to see him sit on the rather large chair, but he was obviously in a good mood.
“I just knew that Jinying Wang would never be so kind.
It’s still her who’s thoughtful.”
If Xiao Shao did it, it was nosy, but if Jiang Ruan did it, it was thoughtful– this difference was a bit big.
Ming Yue forced herself to hold back her laughter as she said, “Your Highness and Junzhu have fate together, your deportment and mannerisms just now were quite similar.”
Upon hearing this, Xuan Pei became even more happy.
He smiled until his eyes squinted.
“Of course, she’s my…” He abruptly stopped, then continued, “My supporter.”