Joy of Life - Chapter 187

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:27]
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Chapter 187: Operation White Sleeve

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

Having left the capital, the diplomatic mission immediately quickened its pace on the road. No longer under the contemptuous and distant gaze of the garrison commanders, the members of the diplomatic mission, including the officials of the Overwatch Council, seemed to be more at ease.

It was March, and as they headed north, the remarkable spring scenery became more and more prominent.

Each county had its own local government office that greeted them. They all knew that the diplomatic mission was headed for Northern Qi, and so no local official dared to slight them. What was more, among the officials of the diplomatic mission was the illustrious Master Fan, so every official who greeted them was particularly attentive. Although they did not dare delay the mission’s schedule,, there was always a great banquet and good company at every stop, and endless flattery of Fan Xian at the banquet table.

It was at this point that Fan Xian finally realized just how far his reputation had spread throughout the Kingdom of Qing. He could not help but feel elated, and at the start he could not say no to each banquet. But as they continued on, he inevitably grew tired of them, and each time he had to repeat his oath that he would no longer write poetry. It was quite troublesome.

Wang Qinian quite enjoyed the whole thing; he found the elegant dancing of the singing girls at the banquets was very entertaining. At each stop, the local magistrate would make extravagant arrangements for the company of local escort girls. Every night was ecstasy, and the things they got up to far surpassed anything he could have done with his aging wife back in the capital.

But these sorts of arrangements did not interest Fan Xian, because the diplomatic mission included one woman who even the Emperor of Northern Qi thought of constantly: Si Lili, the most beguiling woman in all the capital.

So Fan Xian gradually lost interest in attending the banquets, only stopping to chat with those high officials who were old friends of his father. More often he stayed at the diplomatic mission’s encampment: he could keep a close watch over Xiao En, and also spend more time in Si Lili’s carriage.

Counting on his fingers, they had left the capital around half a month ago. In that half month on the road, Fan Xian had spent most of his time in Si Lili’s carriage. He was also getting rather tired of spending time with all the men and their jokes; how could it compare to talking with a beautiful woman?

Si Lili carefully peeled the skin and scraped the pith from an orange before placing the flesh into Fan Xian’s mouth.

Fan Xian was the most senior in the diplomatic mission, and the officials of the Overwatch Council followed him and him alone; the Tiger Guards were even more devoted. No matter what he did, no one would dare say a word.

But as Fan Xian closed his eyes and slowly chewed the orange, he found himself somehow thinking of his sister. In the capital, Ruoruo had also often fed him oranges. Then he thought of his wife Wan’er, left at home. His eyes opened slightly, and through a gap in his eyelids, he secretly watched Si Lili as she prepared the oranges. He began to feel somewhat uneasy.

In truth, on this journey, he and Si Lili had not done anything; they had simply talked and eaten fruit to while away the boring hours. They rarely even brought up the matter of making arrangements once they had reached Shangjing… Of course, occasionally there was the massaging of tired bodies, the holding of hands, the watching of scenery outside the window.

“What are you thinking?” Seeing Fan Xian’s dumbfounded look, Si Lili smiled sweetly. In these days of contact, all she had seen was Fan Xian’s gentle and exquisite face. She had faintly forgotten the horrors of being taken advantage of as a feeble woman in the Celestial Prison. The young woman seemed to like the feeling of sitting and chatting in the carriage. Deep in her heart, she secretly wished the trip would never end.

“I was thinking, uh… you’ve recuperated pretty well over the past few days. Your figure is coming back.” Fan Xian teased her. “When I touched you once we’d just left the capital… it made my hands hurt.”

Si Lili blushed slightly. “Then don’t touch me.”

Fan Xian smiled and took her hand, grasping her wrist and pulling her into his embrace. His palms slowly caressed her body. “Don’t you like it?” he said quietly.

“I was born under an ill-fated star. After all, I was bullied by you, drugged by you in the pleasure boat, tormented by you in the Celestial Prison, and now in this carriage, I cannot escape your clutches…” Si Lili said all of this while leaning on Fan Xian’s chest. The young man’s embrace was gentle and warm, and she didn’t want to leave. She felt his hand parting her clothing and moving onto her buttocks. Her heart skipped a beat, her crimson lips parted slightly, and she breathed into Fan Xian’s ear.

Fan Xian’s ear turned warm and tickled, and he unthinkingly put more weight into his palm.

Si Lili spoke gently, her flattering voice soft as silk, quietly gasping in his ear. “Do you want me? In any case, there’s no happy ending for me in Shangjing.”

Some time later, Fan Xian left the carriage with a strange smile on his face.

There was a poison in Si Lili’s body, a slow acting drug. In the past few days of their close contact, Fan Xian had ascertained this early on. It seemed that the Overwatch Council had planted it in advance.

The poison was one that Fan Xian had seen in the book Fei Jie had left him, but he had never seen it in practice. The poison would slowly spread through the woman’s body, and then could be spread by contact with a man. All that was needed was for the Emperor of Northern Qi to be intimate with Si Lili, and then he would contract the poison. The symptoms would look just like a sexually transmitted disease.

No wonder Chen Pingping had been so serious about the matter. Operation Red Sleeve was not a copy of Xi Shi’s infiltration of the Kingdom of Wu. It was a poisoning plot.

The poison was not untreatable, but it could effectively weaken the target’s body and nerves. Just think. If Si Lili was truly a favorite of the Emperor of Northern Qi, after their nights of passion, perhaps he would very quickly fall ill. The factions of the royal court of Northern Qi were gravely opposed to each other. If he were to fall gravely ill, perhaps the political situation of Northern Qi would fall into chaos once more.

Fan Xian sighed. Si Lili knew that there was poison in her body, but she presumed that it was only a way for the Overwatch Council to control her. She didn’t know that she could transmit it to the men that she liked.

He felt somewhat uncomfortable about the fact that Chen Pingping had not told him. If he had not felt that something was strange during his close contact with Si Lili, then he would not have discovered it. Of course, even if he had contracted the poison, he could treat it quickly, but this feeling of secrecy was still not good.

“Operation Red Sleeve?” He sat in his own carriage and laughed bitterly. “So it’s operation White Sleeve. A conjuring.” [1]

He knew that compared to Chen Pingping, Fei Jie, and even Xiao En in the carriage behind him, his methods were not cruel enough and his heart was not cold enough – Si Lili was only a chess piece that could be thrown away at any moment, but he didn’t know what Chen Pingping could have promised her that would make her blindly willing to be such a pawn.

But what really surprised Fan Xian was something else. It was the real reason that nothing had happened in all their days of close contact.

Si Lili was still a virgin.

The diplomatic mission had reached the northern region of the Kingdom of Qing, and before them stood the kingdom’s northernmost city – Cangzhou. Looking at the vast expanse of city from a distance, Fan Xian narrowed his eyes. The sky had become somewhat darker and the north wind was strong, dispelling the spring air in all directions. The heavens were covered by a canopy of black cloud; it was ominous weather.

Finally, the county guard responsible for escorting them came forward to salute them and began to turn back, leaving behind their own convoy. Although the convoy was long, in the wastelands outside the walls of Cangzhou, it still looked rather tiny and pitiful.

“How long does it take to reach the border after setting out from Cangzhou?” Fan Xian narrowed his eyes, looking at the northern horizon.

“We’re going around a big lake, so it’s rather longer,” replied Wang Qinian respectfully. “At least 20 days.”

Fan Xian frowned. “The real danger will be within those 20 days.” He turned his head to the side and looked at the still-quiet carriage. “How is Xiao En now?”

“You have injected him with poison every day, and I presume he is taking great efforts to dispel it, so he has been calm. He’s been quiet these past few days It seems he is thinking of something.”

“Be careful.” Fan Xian sniffed the air, seemingly smelling the thickening odor of blood from the carriage.

“Yes sir. The county guard has retreated, and I am not put greatly at ease by the Cangzhou garrison. You know full well, sir, what happened the last time Si Lili was escorted back to the capital.”

Fan Xian smiled. “Do not be afraid. Passing through Cangzhou will be the least of our security concerns. What I am worried about is issues from within the diplomatic mission.”

As soon as he had said it, a cavalry attachment appeared over a low distant hill in the wastelands. There were around 500 men, all wearing black armor. In the dim sunlight, they conveyed an air of cold menace.

Wang Qinian smiled. “So the Black Knights have arrived. We have nothing to worry about.”

The wind whipped past them, and the stones on the ground rolled slowly along. Wang Qinian and Fan Xian prepared to get into their carriages and head toward Cangzhou. Fan Xian suddenly paused and slowly turned around. Si Lili had already left the carriage, and stood by its side, looking at him with a frustrated glare.

“Have someone give Miss Si some more clothes. It gets colder the further north we go. This spring is damned late in arriving.” Fan Xian looked calm as he spoke, but his heart was pounding; he had barely entered Si Lili’s carriage at all these past few days.

Wang Qinian looked at Fan Xian a little strangely, then waved a hand to set his subordinates to work. There were three handmaids in the diplomatic mission; they were there to wait on Si Lili as a future woman of the Emperor of Northern Qi. But Fan Xian had spent so much time in the carriage over the past few days that those three women could only follow behind the convoy. A little while later, the handmaids came to Si Lili’s side, and gave her a purple-red cloak before urging her to return to the carriage to rest.

Si Lili allowed them to fasten the cloak to her, but she did not return to the carriage. She simply stared calmly at Fan Xian, seemingly trying to find something in his face.

The distant black riders approached the feeble woman in the purple-red cloak. The dull sun hung in the sky. It was a beautiful scene that made one feel powerless.

[1] A reference to an internet novel called White Sleeve Contamination, which involves a woman who dies after falling in love and being spurned by a crown prince who gives her poisoned wine, and comes back as a powerful vengeful ghost in her own body.