Pearl Legend Chapter 8

As expected, there was someone waiting in the outer room with their back to them. When he heard the sound behind him, he turned around and gave Li Chu a half bow in greeting. “An Qingxu greets Your Highness.”

Li Chu bowed in reply, “Deputy Commander An is always so busy so it has been a few years since I have seen you.”

An Qingxu was wearing his usual archer’s outfit, he seemed a little travel weary with exhaustion etching his face, a little different from his usual self.

“You two know each other!” Dening exclaimed and then chatted on, “it was him, General An who helped me assassinate Zheng Xun. He is just a skilled swordsman!” When she noticed Li Chu’s face turn darker and darker, she meekly continued, “Elder brother, don’t be angry. You dote on me the most you can’t bear to see me suffer a fate worse than death, right?” she pleaded as she pitifully swayed Li Chu’s sleeve.

However Li Chu pulled his sleeve out of her grip. “You have always been audacious and bold, never thinking about the consequences. Although the Imperial Decree has been announced and the wedding certificate has been written but we still have time to change it before you actually marry him. Now that Zheng Xun is dead, the ship has sailed so you have become a widow, do you know?!”

Princess Dening pouted uncaringly, “So what if I am a widow, what is there to be worried about? There are many widowed princesses that have remarried twice and third!”

“Your Highness,” An Qingxu cut in, “it is not Her Highness’ fault, it was I who on a whim, made a mistake. I am willing to bear all responsibility.”

It turned out that it was on that day when Princess Dening stormed out of the palace in fury. After tearing through Luoyang on her horse, she quickly shook off Li Fuguo and her attendants. Meanwhile, because of the joyous news of his impeding nuptials, Zheng Xun invited a group of his wastrel friends to celebrate all night at the alehouse. After a few drinks, he was overcome with lust and decided to visit the brothel before returning home and hence separating from everyone else but unfortunately ended up running into Dening in the alleyway. Perhaps Zheng Xun’s time in the living world was up, somehow he managed to recognise Princess Dening through his drunkenness and started to speak vulgarly to her. Coincidentally, An Qingxu happened to pass by. He was one who could not stand to watch a man harass a woman and someone who could easily kill a person like killing a pest. Without a second thought, he pulled out his sword and killed Zheng Xun. Both of them rode powerful horses and after feeling back to Chang’an through day and night back, they managed to get back just after Li Chu who had set off long before them.

After Li Chu heard the whole story and let out a sigh of relief when he found out that no-one else was at the scene. After some thought, he knew that Li Linfu would not let Zheng Xun’s death go so easily. He had plenty of spies and henchmen and one day will suspect Dening. But he had no evidence and the one who murdered him was An Qingxu. Besides An Lushan was not someone to cross so he can only plan one step at a time. “Deputy Commander Xu, apologies for my rudeness, please forgive me. My consort is unwell so let’s catch up in the study. I will prepare a small feast so please do not refuse,” he told them after quickly deciding his mind.

Then he heard An Qingxu inform say, “Oh, your princess consort is ill? Although I am not well trained in the field [1] but I have studied medicine before……”

“That’s such a good coincidence, please Commander An take a look at her!” Li Chu was happy to give him the honour of taking a look at his wife, even though he did not think that he would be able to cure her.

Luckily for them, women were not segregated from men in the age they lived in and An Qingxu was welcomed into the chamber. However An Qingxu did not feel her pulse, instead he studied her intently before raising his head to tell Li Chu, “From what I can see, Her Highness does not seem to be suffering from a cold, she has been poisoned.”

 “Senior you’re here as well? Then there is no use of me here!” Princess Consort of Jianning, Murong Linzhi exclaimed as she lifted the bead curtain to enter. Her name arose from the verse “With the grace of the bamboo forest”[2] and was as thin as a branch. She was not quite a beauty but was gentle and elegant and carried an aura different from any other girl. Her voice was as soothing as the flutelike song of the oriole. About a year ago, she had befriended Li Chu and his brother and the three of them would often meet, so she was able to visit Prince Guangping’s manor as she wished.

It startled An Qingxu. He turned around to take a look at Shen Zhenzhu before suddenly bellowing, “Princess Consort of Jianning is more skilled in medicine that me. It is not convenient for me to disturb your peace. I bid my leave!”

This time it was Li Chu’s turn to be startled. He tried to stop him but Shen Zhenzhu’s illness still concerned him so he could only let him go. “Then as you wish Commander An.”

An Qingxu left immediately. As he passed by Murong Linzhi, his left hand suddenly moved slightly and an object silently dropped into her hand. Before Murong Linzhi could react, her eyes met with An Qingxu’s sharp eyes that seem to cut through her as his eyes passed her by. She felt her heart quiver under his gaze and quickly hid the object under her sleeve.

“Don’t go!” Princess Dening shouted before quickly following him out.

“That An Qingxu is such a strange man!” Li Chu commented.

Meanwhile Linzhi quickly studied the room and noticed that Li Chu seemed to be a little distracted, his eyes kept drifting back towards Shen Zhenzhu’s sleeping face and relaxed slightly. She took a look at Shen Zhenzhu and thought back to the size of the object that An Qingxu had passed to her and realised what it was. “My senior has always been like that. However, he is behaving even more stranger than usual today,” she told him with a smile. Her hand reached over to feel Shen Zhenzhu’s pulse and with a frown informed Li Chu, “My senior is right, she has been poisoned.” But to find out the source of the poison, she called Su Ci and Hong Rui and Shen Zhenzhu’s closest maids over and asked them about Shen Zhenzhu’s symptoms, the medicine she took etc and then told Li Chu, “Sister-in-law did initially fall ill due to a cold, she would have recovered soon but someone added a poisonous herb called fengxiang herb which caused her condition to worsen. However this herb is hard to come by so an ordinary physician would be unable to detect it. Fortunately my teacher told my senior and I about it.”

Li Chu’s face darkened at her words. There was a private apothecary within the manor, which was responsible for finding the medicinal herbs, cooking them to make the medicine and then delivering it. No-one else could touch the medicine that was from that department. Just as he was about to summon someone to investigate the apothecary, Liu Run came in and whispered in his ear that two maids who worked in the Apothecary had been found murdered. Li Chu let out a cold laugh, “Very good, by killing them they think we won’t be able to find any leads. How dare they do this!”

The Li Chu that Murong Linzhi knew never expressed his feelings but today she could see that he could barely contain his anger and quickly expressed, “Yan is waiting for you at the pavilion, hurry and see him. I will take care of your Princess Consort. Although she has been poisoned but I am around so I promise you that she will be fine.”

By the steps of the pavilion, stood the gentle Prince Jianning Li Yan clothed in an alabaster robe. A bright smile broke out on his face when he saw Li Chu approach.

[1]Not well trained in this field: Modesty was seen and still is seen a virtue and it would be seen as rude to say he was skilled at something, especially to someone he did not know well.

[2]Linzhi: “Lin” means forest and “Zhi” has many meanings like to cause, to send, to incur, to devote, like etc. The phrase “With the grace of a bamboo forest” is a phrase that was used to describe a woman. It’s from a book called the Records of Xuan He to describe a woman called Xue Tao. Although she came from an unprivileged background, but she had the grace of a bamboo forest. Bamboos was often associated with gentlemanly qualities and liked by scholars because they were straight and unbending and durable in heat and the cold.


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