Enter the trap
“If I don’t go to hell, who would go to hell?”
Chapter 210 - Enter the trap
Prince Chu Feng who had been stewing in his impatience could help but feel his spirits rise when his soldiers reported the incident. He had anticipated the event, but his mother had not told him when or how exactly it would happen so as to provoke a authentic reaction. Thus the prince was genuinely annoyed when the marching procession column came to a shuddering halt.
“What is going on?” he gruffly asked.
“There is a pitiable lady kneeling by the roadside seeking relief,” the soldier said with his brows lined with concern.
Prince Chu Feng frowned, his personal troops were a disciplined lot and it was almost unheard of for them to show their emotions in front of him.
‘She must be very good,’ Chu Feng thought to himself, his mother’s repeated warnings pushed to the back of his mind. He only knew that the honey trap was going to be done by a woman in black.
The prince made a show of looking up at the skies and winced at the blazing hot sun. “We might as well stop for a rest while we listen to what she has to say,” he announced. “Set up a temporary camp and send word to Prince Chu Xiong, this should be up his alley,” he added with a sneer.
The soldier showed no signs of doubt, even though the day’s journey had barely begun several hours ago. In fact, Chu Feng thought he could see the spring in his subordinate’s step as he rushed to obey.
He cannot help but feel intrigued when the camp was quickly assembled. Was it his imagination or was this time the royal tent was build up faster than usual?
In any event, the preparations were done quickly and before long, he was inside the large tent, with his royal brother in attendance. He suppressed his annoyance when Chu Xiong arrived together with Huang Ming.
“You have looked unwell lately dear brother. You must be feeling poorly indeed to have called for a rest so quickly today,” Chu Xiong said with a smirk.
“Thank you for your concern, dear brother,” Chu Feng said with barely concealed anger. “But this is not about me. Rather, this should be something you’d be more interested in.”
“Oh?” Chu Xiong drawled as he took his seat beside his brother, while Huang Ming quietly stood behind.
“Indeed. You surely know more about women in distress than I do,” Chu Feng said sarcastically.
“You would do well to do the same, instead of being preoccupied with your soldiers all the time. The people will talk, you know,” Chu Xiong replied with ease. Huang Ming turned his head away to hide his smile, but Chu Feng saw the gesture and immediately felt the blood rushing to his head.
Fortunately his outburst was interrupted by the arrival of the lady of the hour, and whatever anger he had suddenly evaporated when he laid his eyes on her.
Indeed, all those in the royal tent, from the stoic guards to the closest maids and servants on duty could not help but felt drawn to the newcomer who knelt before the royal brothers.
She was a willowly, ethereal woman: her reddened eyes, thin lips, pale face stained with streaks of dust and dried tears; her disordered, long raven hair gave the impression of a harrowing beauty. The frayed, black dress of a mourner that she was wearing gave answer to the source of the troubles that haunted her.
Like the rest present, Prince Chu Feng himself was struck speechless at the woman’s appearance. All thoughts of the honey trap and his mother’s admonishments flew away from his mind.
His mouth dropped open, ready to ask a question or to offer help when he suddenly heard a sharp intake of breath nearby. Startled back into awareness, Chu Feng managed to tear his eyes away from the woman and glanced towards the source of the sound, and saw that both his brother Chu Xiong and his cohort Huang Ming were both struck dumb, their eyes glued at the woman.
The sight of his nemeses in such state gave him a wake up call. They were cocky and flippant only a few minutes ago, yet now they were staring at the woman with their tongues tied. Chu Feng felt a sense of satisfaction seeing that the honey trap had worked.
Even so, Chu Feng felt it was such a waste for a woman of such beauty to be involved in such a plot. He could only steel his heart and hardened his eyes to glare at the woman.
“Who are you?” he asked brusquely, his rough voice shattering the stunned silence in the tent.
She kept her eyes lowered, her already pale face turning even more ashen as she trembled in fear.
“Speak up, woman!” Chu Feng demanded.
The woman was seemingly frightened by his temper. She bit her lips, not daring to lift her watery eyes from the ground.
“Brother, can you not be more gentle? Obviously the lady is in some distress,” Chu Xiong chided.
“Then you handle this, I have no patience for this,” Chu Feng snorted, inwardly happy that his brother had taken the bait. And yet, he could not help but feel peeved that the bait was something so tempting. Thus the best way to resolve this contradiction was for him to quickly wash his hands off it.
“We will reluctantly accept this grave responsibility,” Chu Xiong said airily.
Chu Feng glowered as his brother stood up and went over to the woman. The sense of envy within him amplified as he watched Chu Xiong gently lift the woman’s chin.
Chu Xiong drew a deep breath after he had wiped away the disfigurements away from her face with his sleeve, for it revealed a complexion of clear jade, a true beauty that could ruin a kingdom.
“What is your name and how did you come to be here?” Chu Xiong asked softly.
“This handmaid is the sole survivor of the Ying family,” the woman answered.
“The Ying family?” Chu Feng interjected from his seat. “I know of them, they are of a retired minor official’s family of some repute in these parts.”
He was of course lying, it was just a prepared scenario that he had memorized.
“What do you mean by being the last survivor?” Chu Xiong asked.
“A gang of bandits raided our home and slaughtered every one. I was away visiting my relatives, that is how I was unharmed,” the woman managed to answer before collapsing into sobs.
Chu Feng himself was nearly moved when he saw the stricken woman, but he managed to gather his wits around him.
“Bandits? How dare they! I shall take this chance to wipe them out!” he growled.
One of his confidants raised an objection. “Your highness, what of your journey to the temple?”
“My brother can surely take charge a leisurely trip,” he answered with contempt. “Besides, we will need to scour the path ahead in case the bandits are in our way.”
“You do that, brother, we can handle this,” Chu Xiong said while keeping his eyes on the quietly sobbing woman.
Chu Feng hmphed and stomped out of the tent, the feeling of irritation festering in his heart. It took all of his willpower not to cast a last look at the woman.
“What should I do now?” she wept.
At this point Huang Ming stepped forward. “It so happens that we are on the way to the Bright Filial Piety Temple. You can seek some solace there before deciding your next course.”
The woman’s tears stopped flowing as she gave Huang Ming a grateful look.
Chu Xiong frowned when Huang Ming took the words out of his mouth.
“Yes, the temple is full of womenfolk that can help you,” he hastened to add, not wanting to lose out to his mentor.
“Your highness, perhaps we should continue with the journey as soon as possible. I will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate this woman,” Huang Ming suggested.
“Nonsense,” Chu Xiong objected immediately. “She came to us for help, it is only right that we give her our undivided attention,” he said, emphasizing his royal speech.
“Enough, we have decided,” Chu Xiong interrupted Huang Ming’s protest. He motioned to his personal maids. “See to it that she is taken care of!” he ordered.
The fragile woman managed to stammer her thanks before she was whisked away.
Now the royal tent only had Huang Ming and Chu Xiong.
“Well, if that was a trap, I’m not too sure about avoiding it,” Chu Xiong tried to joke.
“It is of course a trap. Your brother is obviously moved by her but is trying his best to restrain himself.”
“Can’t blame him,” Chu Xiong muttered. “What do we do with her?”
Huang Ming smiled. “Your highness, she is such a big temptation. Why not give her to me?”
But I’ll jump.