Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 78
Chapter 78: Betrothal Pronouncement
When Li Qianxiao entered the inner gardens, the first thing he saw was Li Mo, sitting right beside Li Xiu, and the ugly girl in Li Mo’s lap. He almost stopped to gape in shock. Was his uncle tricked by her false appearances, too? No, that ugly girl wasn’t even wearing a gauze patch to cover up her birthmark!
Li Qianxiao immediately turned away from Yun Ruoyan’s face. Just the one glance prior had almost blinded him.
“Xiao’er, why are you standing there in a daze? Quick, have a seat!” the empress urged.
Li Qianxiao looked up to see his father staring at him. He immediately lowered his head once more, greeted the emperor and empress, and retreated to his own seat.
In the middle of the gardens, two young masters were duelling with each other, demonstrating impressive mastery over showmanship—but which came at the price of substance. Li Qianxiao looked on in boredom when his father suddenly asked him a question. “Where were you just now?”
Li Qianxiao immediately put down the cup of wine in his hands and sat up straight. “Father, I arrived early and had been roaming through the gardens. After feeling a little tired, I found a place to rest, and accidentally fell asleep.”
“Your Majesty, I indeed found the crown prince within the outer gardens,” Eunuch Chang immediately vouched for the crown prince.
“Xiao’er, you must have been busy this last month. If you’re too tired, make sure you return to the palace; you can’t simply rest outside so casually.” The empress’ voice dripped with concern. “Where are your guards?”
The warriors by the crown prince’s side were all warriors from the Rong family, given special dispensation by the emperor to enter the palace to protect the empress and crown prince.
“I gave them a holiday, and they’re back home visiting their families,” Li Qianxiao replied.
“The crown prince is benevolent indeed,” Eunuch Chang sighed.
Only then did Li Xiu shift his gaze away from Li Qianxiao. He let out a breath that he’d been holding, raised his head once more, and couldn’t help but look to Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan again.
“Ah, third brother,” Li Qianxiao leaned in close to Li Qianhan by his side and whispered, “Why’s Uncle here today?”
“Because he wanted to, of course,” Li Qianhan replied coolly.
Ignoring his attitude, Li Qianxiao continued, “Why’s Uncle hugging that ugly girl from the Yun family?”
“Because he wanted to, of course,” Li Qianhan replied coolly again.
“……” Li Qianxiao scowled and sat up straight once more.
As others’ gazes swept across her, Yun Ruoyan sat on Li Mo’s thigh the same way she would have sat on a carpet embedded with pins and needles. However, she couldn’t reveal any of her anxiety on her face.
“Slaughtering King, isn’t your thigh numb? Why don’t I sit by your side instead?” Yun Ruoyan asked carefully.
“No, I quite like it the way it is.” Li Mo smiled. “Now, pour me some wine.”
Yun Ruoyan grit her teeth as she filled up Li Mo’s cup.
She had already forgotten whether this was the seventh or eighth cup. All she could tell was that the flask of wine was nearly empty, and the person behind her was tipsy, but he refused to fall into a drunken sleep.
Li Mo was indeed a little drunk—but it was because of the girl sitting on his thigh, not the wine.
Yun Ruoyan’s womanly scent was something unique to her alone, and only Li Mo was close enough to smell it. That scent was incredibly potent, making one want to get close to and possess her.
Only by drinking more and more could Li Mo suppress these instincts of his. Perhaps it would have been most rational to let Yun Ruoyan go, but Li Mo didn’t want to.
Realizing that Li Mo was watching her every move with tipsy, shining eyes filled with scorching heat, Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but feel for her birthmark. It was clearly still present!
Did this famed Slaughtering King like ugly women? That couldn’t be!
In her anxiety, Yun Ruoyan suddenly thought of a plan. She began to scratch at the skin right next to her birthmark as she made an expression of pain. “Oh, it’s so itchy!” Her voice was pitiful. “Slaughtering King, my face is acting up again, and it’s so itchy! Please, let go of me.”
“Oh? Shall I call the imperial physician over?” Li Mo frowned.
“No, no, no.” Yun Ruoyan immediately shook her head. “It’s an old problem of mine, and even summoning the imperial physician won’t help. Every night, it’ll start itching so much that I can barely bear it. As soon as I scratch the skin, it’ll break and leak pus. If anyone were to accidentally get the pus on them, my skin condition would definitely spread!”
“Oh? Is it that serious?” Li Mo raised his eyebrows again.
“Oh, very serious. Slaughtering King, your body’s precious. Please don’t get infected!”
Contrary to Yun Ruoyan’s expectations, however, Li Mo didn’t seem to be disgusted or shocked by her exclamation. Instead, he reached a hand out toward Yun Ruoyan’s birthmark. “It would be a serious issue if you were to bleed. I’ll scratch your skin gently for you.”
“What?!” Yun Ruoyan grabbed Li Mo’s wrist as her lips twitched. “Slaughtering King, aren’t you afraid of getting infected?”
“Aren’t you disgusted?”
Yun Ruoyan very much wanted to give him a supercilious look. Clearly, this man had a very… unique sense of beauty. When she looked into a mirror, she would scare even herself. How could this man stand to look at her with such a gaze, and even dare to scratch the birthmark that even she found disgusting? Yun Ruoyan had no other explanation for his actions.
“Don’t worry, let me scratch it for you,” Li Mo’s voice was soft. “I promise I’ll be gentle…”
“No, no, no.” Yun Ruoyan immediately shook her head, and her grip on Li Mo’s wrist tightened. She wasn’t afraid that Li Mo would make her skin bleed; she was afraid that Li Mo would accidentally peel off the fake birthmark that she hadn’t secured very well!
“Alright, I’m not itchy anymore,” Yun Ruoyan quickly added.
“Really?” Li Mo asked suspiciously. “Weren’t you especially itchy just now?”
“No, I’m really fine now!” Yun Ruoyan raised her voice and opened her eyes wide, pretending to be delighted. “My goodness, how amazing! I feel just fine now!”
“That’s truly amazing!” Li Mo’s eyes twinkled as he continued, “I can’t believe your itchiness was cured, just like that!”
Li Xiu was watching the match when he suddenly heard the couple by his side begin to talk loudly in what appeared to be a particularly excited manner.
What, his brother could actually laugh out loud? He couldn’t help asking, “Fourth brother, what itchiness are you two talking about?”
Only then did Yun Ruoyan react. She’d been speaking too loudly, and she immediately clutched her mouth. But it was too late, because her exclamations that it was no longer itching had successfully captured the attention of everyone around her.
“It’s nothing, brother,” Li Mo responded with a cool smile. “She was itchi—”
Yun Ruoyan immediately clasped her hand over Li Mo’s mouth before turning to the emperor with a smile. “Your Majesty, we didn’t say anything, nothing at all!” Yun Ruoyan was very scared that Li Mo would end up causing the emperor to summon the imperial physician.
“I’m really not itchy anymore, so don’t speak nonsense and ruin everyone’s dinner.” Yun Ruoyan sat in Li Mo’s lap, one hand on his wrist and the other against his mouth. Even her gaze was threatening.
The Slaughtering King, famed for his indiscriminate slaughter… seemed to be cowed by this ugly girl?
Li Xiu’s eyes twitched. Li Qianhan’s eyes twitched. Li Qianxiao’s eyes followed suit and twitched.
Everyone’s eyes twitched.
What secret did this ugly Yun girl have, to be able to sit in the Slaughtering King’s lap, to grab his wrist, to clutch his mouth, to… to even threaten him with her gaze!!!
On the other hand, the Slaughtering King was enjoying himself immensely. Yun Ruoyan’s fragrance was intoxicating, and he couldn’t help but stick out his tongue and lick her palm, the palm that was currently clutched against his mouth.
“Ah!” As if struck by lightning, Yun Ruoyan’s hand spasmed. Even the hairs at the back of her neck were beginning to rise.
“Miss Yun? Are you alright?” Li Xiu turned to her and asked again.
“Yes, thank you, Your Majesty.” Yun Ruoyan immediately forced a smile, but her eyes continued to twitch.
This was the most animated anyone had seen Li Mo in recent times. Even his fury at being left high and dry by someone by the lakeside had dissipated unknowingly.
Yun Ruoyan still couldn’t break free of Li Mo’s grip, and she could only wipe her palm off on Li Mo’s long robes.
“You sick pervert…” She glared at Li Mo.
Although Li Xiu’s eyes were trained on the match, his attention was entirely focused on the duo next to him. He couldn’t understand why, but it was almost certain that Li Mo was interested in Yun Ruoyan. However, the ugly girl didn’t seem to be happy at all with his advances.
At this time, as the eldest brother, he clearly had to think of his younger brother’s future.
After the match ended, Li Xiu presented a milquetoast commentary regarding the two fighters: that their performance was both acceptable, but not to be proud and to continue working hard.
He then continued, “Our purpose in hosting this flower-viewing party is, I’m sure, well-known. No one present has been betrothed to another, even my sons and daughters. The Li kingdom has always been open-minded, so please, don’t be reserved. If there’s anyone you’re interested in, I’ll allow your betrothal.” As he spoke, Li Xiu turned toward Li Mo. “The Slaughtering King himself has been a perfect example. If you see a woman that pleases you, be sure to take the initiative.”
Yun Ruoyan lowered her head, already insensitive to the attention that had been heaped on her again and again during the party.
However, the emperor continued, “That’s why, during this banquet, my first betrothal will be between my fourth brother, the Slaughtering King, and the second daughter of the Yun family, Yun Ruoyan.”
Yun Ruoyan raised her head in shock as she looked at Li Xiu. “What? Betrothal?!”