After replacing the hat, she looked up saw the stone that had slapped her, and Lin Shao’s strangely proud expression as he clung to the window.
Shouldn’t he also be locked away in confinement? What is he doing up there?
“Hey, listen. The Academy Competition will start at sun rise!” Lin Shao jumped straight to the matter at hand. “That damned Xin Ziyan, punishing us with seven days. Does he want us to miss the Grand Conference? No way! No way!”
“Wait.” Feng Zhiwei called out, her dizziness and confusion preempting her complaints. “Isn’t the competition in three days?”
“You’ve slept for three days!” Lin Shao snorted and laughed. “Pig! Nothing could wake you. Hey, it wasn’t easy for me to get out here, are you coming? I still have to beat you in the Academy Competition!”
“How could I be your opponent?” Feng Zhiwei hugged her head. “Spare me, young master.”
“Never!” Lin Shao cried out angrily. “How can you forfeit before even competing! What are you playing, no matter what you want, you have to come!”
In a flash, his head disappeared, and after a moment, a rope was tossed in.
“And I had thought that you could just open the door and let me waltz out of here.” Feng Zhiwei smiled crookedly at the rope.
“As if. Xin Ziyan was the one who ordered this confinement, it’s not so easy to escape.” Lin Shao called out impatiently. “It took a lot to distract the guards for an hour. If you don’t come right now, you won’t have another chance.”
Feng Zhiwei looked down at Gu Nanyi’s sleeping form and decided it was about time to run before he woke up and brought about a new wave of trouble.
When she climbed up onto the roof, her suspicions were confirmed. Everyone else was already gathered on the roof as she clambered up, and Chunyu Meng chuckled and called out “Wine God!”
Feng Zhiwei rolled her eyes, silently complaining about the large and embarrassing sacrifices that she had had to make.
“Quickly, let’s go. Go! We can change at my place.” Lin Shao called out cheerfully and confidently. “We’ll make a big scene at the test hall… I heard that fath… The Emperor and the Princes will be here, and many other Imperial Officials as well!”
Feng Zhiwei stood on the eaves of the roof and faced the sunrise, her hands clasped behind her back. The first pink rays of dawn reached up over the horizon, and the rosy hue lit up the ten thousand mountains and rivers below her feet. The rising sun lit up her robes as the whistling wind rustled through her hair, and her eyes took in the rushing rivers and deathless mountains.
Her eyes narrowed, and she let out a quiet sigh.
“The wind rises…”
It was before dawn, and the darkest time of the night was settling in.
Feng Zhiwei had left the others behind at the courtyard, begging off to return to her room to change her clothes. Indeed, after a dead sleep for three days, her clothes were crumpled and stank of alcohol – she was in no way ready for company.
But in the end it was just a rather believable excuse, and Feng Zhiwei’s mind was racing as she thought of how to flee the academy. On the way back to her room, she lied to Yan Huaishi about going to the bathroom and abandoned him on the path.
Her body was still heavy with the aftermaths of the alcohol. The liquor she had guzzled was unrivaled under heaven throughout the dominion of the Tian Sheng Dynasty, and even a burly man with a champion’s capacity could only drink three cups at most. Soon, Feng Zhiwei could not put it off any longer, and the contents of her stomach swelled up, and she hurried to the side to puke. Wiping away the vomit from her mouth, Feng Zhiwei looked up and was groaning to her feet when the shadowed view in front of her made her pause.
Gorgeous trees and flowers were artfully spaced, decorating and shielding a small building hidden in the darkness. No light shone from within.
Feng Zhiwei had not paused because of some shadowed windows, but even though everything seemed utterly normal, she still peered forward with squinted and suspicious eyes.
The building seemed to be surrounding by a protective art, and Feng Zhiwei sensed that though the little house seemed just a few steps away, reaching it would be more difficult than climbing to the heavens.
In the back of her mind she knew that she could only have stumbled upon this place because of her mysterious notebook. After studying it so carefully in the recent past, she’d memorized some of the protective arts and the steps to pass through them.
Had she accidentally broken through the first barriers of some important sanctuary?
Feng Zhiwei’s first impulse was to immediately backtrack, but just as she had almost straightened up, she instinctively dropped back down to the ground.
A set of clear footfalls sounded from the near distance, and the rustling of moving cloth wafted in the wind.
The flowers and trees shivered, and scattered the light reflected from the surroundings. The shaking movement of the foliage was altogether unnatural, and not only the branches swayed, but the entirety of the brush and vegetation shifted slightly.
Soon, another block of shadowed figures rose up out of the bushes.
Suddenly, a heavy weight seemed to fall around the little house.
A bizarre scene played out in the dark night as dark shadows slowly pulled themselves up off the ground, almost filling the air with the iron tang of blood and a palpable atmosphere of death.
Feng Zhiwei lay motionless on her belly, carefully watching and waiting. As those dark shapes slowly marched upwards and crested the ground, she could faintly make out a series of shadowed heads.
Was there a tunnel underground? Had a company of soldiers invaded?
Feng Zhiwei’s breathing slowed, and her light exhalations of air faded into silence.
Suddenly, cloth fluttered over her head as a bat like shadow flew by before angling around to land on the small building, the figure’s wooden mask shining dully in the darkness.
It was the dark robed man who had used a flying sword to block Gu Nanyi’s finger attack three days ago in the dining hall, and had stood silently beside Xin Ziyan in confronting them.
He stood upright on the overhanging eaves of the small building, somehow as light as a leaf in the wind, and as steady in his stance as a rock. After his turn in the air, his eyes fell on the flower bush that Feng Zhiwei hid behind.
Zhiwei’s breath stuck in her throat, and she shut her eyes tight – for a master at this man’s level, even an errant gaze could alert them to their surroundings.
The man stood quietly on the roof’s edge, motionless in the swift night wind. His stare pierced through the darkness as if a cutting blade, and swept over the decorative brush with a suspicious glare.
Feng Zhiwei’s sweat pooled around her and in the small of her back.
With his mastery of body lightening, the man could snuff her out with an easy turn of his hand.
Feng Zhiwei had stumbled off the path and into a moment of life and death.
Just then, the soft click of an opening window startled the night, and a bird took flight from the trees. A hand reached out from the window on the second floor and grabbed the dark robed man and easily pulled him into the building.
A large cuff flashed forward, revealing a white arm.
Feng Zhiwei remained prone on the ground, and let out a quiet sigh of relief, not even caring that she was almost eating dirt.
That hand that had unintentionally saved her life was probably Xin Ziyan’s. There was no one else that could so easily move that stony man.
People continued to march out from that hole in the ground, gathering around the edges of the building. After a moment, they quietly dispersed.
The whole group moved with well-trained and agile steps, even their blades wrapped in black cloth to shine no light in the night.
As for where they were going, or what they had come here to do, Feng Zhiwei did not dare to speculate.
When the day broke, the academy’s competition would begin…
Lin Shao’s words suddenly gained new meaning, and a shiver ran up Feng Zhiwei’s spine.