They were about twenty feet apart when Chu Yu saw Tian Rujing. She could not make out his face, but from the purple robes and the way he walked as if hovering above the ground, she was accurate in recognizing him.
Walking within the stately yet magnificent palace walls, the youth’s figure seemed isolated from the rest of the world, untainted by the dust of the universe.
Tian Rujing…Chu Yu flattened her lips in disdain. She had little regard for this charlatan.
Having grown up in a materialism era exploding with information, Chu Yu did not believe in blind faith towards religion. Even if her time travel could not be explained, she knew from historical facts alone, how the emperors’ league of specialists would mostly create medicines heavy with trace metals for him. Medicines which, when ingested, shorted lives instead of prolonging them.
Much less could be said for the man before her, who gave off a holier than thou impression. If he really were so saintly, why would he be here as an official in the luxurious palace? Thinking this made Chu Yu despise him a hundred times over. Yes indeed, a hundred times over.
From the look of Tian Rujing, he seemed to be off to exorcise ghosts in some lady’s chamber. The two palace maids leading the way were about fifteen to sixteen years of age. One of them was noticeably anxious, as though it were her first time leading the way for the Celestial Master. Chu Yu’s approaching figure caught her by surprise and she jolted, stepping back twice, only to accidentally tread on Tian Rujing’s shoe.
Her face was blanched white as snow the moment she realized what she had stepped on. Panicked, she immediately knelt and started begging him for mercy.
At this time, Chu Yu was close by. She purposefully slowed down to peer out the corner of her eyes. If Tian Rujing wanted to punish the palace maid, she would then be able to stop him.
Unfolding his sleeves, Tian Rujing bent down and pulled the quaking palace maid back on her feet. His tone was calm when he spoke. “Don’t stop, carry on walking.”
Chu Yu’s feet were rooted to the ground. A minuscule, stunned “eh” escaped her. It was different from her imagination. Tian Rujing did not harshly punish the palace maid, neither did he gently console her to display his magnanimity. His expression was so slight, it seemed to almost float away from the mortal realm, as if no one had stepped on his foot, as if absolutely nothing had transpired.
This caught Chu Yu off guard a little.
Noticing Chu Yu’s curious gaze on him, Tian Rujing’s behavior mirrored their first meeting – the corners of his lips turning up into a faint smile before passing by her.
In the two times they had walked by each other, the first time, Chu Yu’s impression of Tian Rujing had fallen from great to terrible. This second time, because of what happened earlier with the palace maid, tilted her impression of him back to good.
Chu Yu could tell Tian Rujing was not deliberately putting on airs in front of her. That cool, dispassionate gaze, as if looking down upon everything, even the dust of the universe, seemed brought about by nature. Him smiling and nodding at her was purely done as a greeting and almost perfunctory. But it was this kind of perfunctory courteousness that lessened her feelings of contempt towards him.
Although derailed by Tian Rujing for a while, Chu Yu’s thoughts were soon back to the dead end road of trying to figure out how to reform Liu Ziye.
According to Chu Yu’s belief, his teachers may already have tried reasoning with Liu Ziye to death. The way he was now, it appeared to have no effect on him. If so, what else could she possibly do?
The carriage had barely moved along after she had gotten into it, when she hastily shouted to the driver. “Stop here for a while.”
Thinking quickly inside the carriage, Chu Yu reached over to the side where a few boxes lay. She opened the second box, revealing a set of neatly folded male clothing.
“Princess…” Yue Jiefei said lowly as he followed behind Chu Yu.
Folding fan in one hand, Chu Yu spun round and hit his forehead with it, smiling as she did so. “Call me young master.” She had stashed away male and female clothing on the carriage for emergency uses, and had asked from Rong Zhi the same face-paint previously used for concealment. All of it made for a quick disguise when going out to town.
The current Chu Yu resembled her disguise at the past poetry banquet. After some practice, she had familiarized herself with styling her hair in the male fashion.
“Yes, young master.” Yue Jiefei’s face was crinkled as he agreed in reply, but his vigilance urged him to remind Chu Yu. “Young master, why don’t you bring along a few more bodyguards? We have yet to uncover the matter of the assassination. Frankly, this is making me quite worried.”
Chu Yu smiled. “Are you saying you have no confidence in your skills, and are unable to protect me?”
To make Yue Jiefei admonish his skills as inferior was an impossible task, hence he shut his mouth and obligingly followed behind Chu Yu.
Chu Yu was ill-fated each time she went out in clothes of the opposite gender. The first time, she had been chased wildly down the streets for being too beautiful. The second time, she had met with assassins. But if she were to choose between agreeably staying in the Princess’s Palace, or going to and fro from her place to the emperor’s palace, she would rather be outside and meeting accidents every time.
She was happiest when she was free of the burdens that came with being a princess. Even her two setbacks could not dampen her soaring mood.
After asking directions from a passerby, Chu Yu journeyed down the street till she reached Xin Lan Lane. She had heard from Pei Shu at the poetry banquet this was a place that sold the best rouges. Not only did it sell rouges, but it also sold fragrances. Chu Yu had reached Xin Lan Lane and was standing outside the shop door, when she smelt the delicately elegant scent of rouge powder and fragrances wafting out from within.
Heaving a silent sigh at the obsession this era had over beauty, Chu Yu walked over to what looked to be a countertop. She called out to the man standing behind it who was currently bookkeeping. “Is there anyone here who specializes in fragrances? I’ve a few things to inquire.”
The man behind the counter looked up, showing a long, narrow face. He looked Chu Yu up and down, as though calculating the weight of her purse, before turning his head to the inner hall and calling out. It seemed to be someone’s name, for his call gathered much of the surrounding gazes.
A surprised voice piped up, catching Chu Yu’s attention. “Brother Zichu?”
Finding both the name and voice familiar, Chu Yu turned to look. At Pei Shu’s stunned face, she hastily recalled having used the fake alias “Yu Zichu” in her past meeting with him.
“Is Brother Zichu also here to buy fragrances?” Pei Shu delightedly walked over. After looking left and right, he hesitated and asked. “Brother Yu Ziyuan isn’t here with you?”
Meanwhile, Chu Yu was mid-gesture taking out something. As the person the bookkeeper called for had arrived, she continued retrieving a silk purse from within her sleeve and passed it over with a smile. “If it isn’t too much trouble, could you help me check what are the different fragrances I have in here?”