Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Part Nine—translated by Doza
“Silence before the imperial palace!”
A thunderous roar sounded, and the two of them were greatly startled. With their hearts thumping nervously, they looked toward the source of the voice. Only then did they realize that as they were quarreling, they had arrived at the imperial palace. In front of the imposing and magnificent gates stood two soldiers clad in chainmail, each with a sword hanging at their waist. Both of their faces wore unpleasant expressions. One could even say that they were giving Meng and Sword Spirit unfriendly glares.
Meng immediately backed up several steps and then timidly replied in a whisper, “S-Sorry,” without considering whether or not the guards could hear her.
Sword Spirit, on the other hand, was fearless. He even urged Meng, “Hurry up, hurry up. Tell them that you want to go into the palace to meet the prince.”
“They won’t allow that…” Meng was a little hesitant.
“Scaredy-cat!” Sword Spirit rolled his eyes at her. Seeing that Meng still did not dare to go forward, he simply said, “Never mind, let me say it. Raise me up in front of them.”
Meng uttered “Okay,” and carried the sword as she stepped forward. At first, when the soldiers saw Meng approaching with a sword in her hands, they gave her looks of disapproval. But when she, looking cautious and terrified, came within three meters of the soldiers, the disapproval disappeared from their faces and was replaced with looks of apprehension, as if a storm was coming. Both their hands moved to their swords. At that moment, Meng took yet another step forward, and the two soldiers drew their swords in unison.
When she saw the two gleaming swords, Meng’s body instantly froze.
“Hey! Can you explain to them a bit?” Sword Spirit was also frightened. It looked like the two soldiers had misunderstood and thought that Meng wanted to attack them.
Upon seeing that Meng had no reaction, Sword Spirit wanted to shout and remind her that those two soldiers were already pointing their blades at their faces. However, he suddenly felt his body falling down, and then with a “clang,” he came into intimate contact with the ground. Luckily, he had landed with his back on the ground. If he had fallen flat on his face, Sword Spirit had no hands to prevent his mouth and eyes from suffering.
“Sword Spirit, you better quickly explain to them.”
From a long distance away—not that he knew how far away she had hidden herself—came Meng’s timid shout. Sword Spirit gritted his teeth and cursed a few times. But just as he looked up, he saw those two soldiers frowning as they scrutinized him, as if trying to determine if this strange sword posed a threat.
When he saw the expression on the soldiers’ faces, which could definitely be called hostile, Sword Spirit could only force himself to smile. “G-Greetings to you two men. The truth is, the situation is like this…”
During this time, Meng who was hiding behind a tree, stealthily stuck her head out to see how matters were progressing. If those two decided to do something harmful to Sword Spirit, like… melt him or stab his eyes to blind him, maybe she would summon up her tiny bit of courage and go out to perform the act of the heroine saving her sword.
But it appeared that the present situation was not that dire. The two soldiers stood around Sword Spirit and had their heads lowered to listen to him. Meng tried her best to stretch her ears, wanting to hear what Sword Spirit was saying. Unfortunately, Sword Spirit did not talk very loudly, and Meng could not clearly hear the bits and pieces of speech that floated over. But the gist of it was about a pure-hearted young lady wanting to enter the imperial palace during the ball and meet the prince of her dreams, and therefore, he requested that they be accommodating.
“No.” The soldier replied resolutely and loudly.
“Don’t be like this. A shy young lady wouldn’t cause any problems for the palace’s security.” Sword Spirit tried to put on a flattering smile.
The soldier ignored Sword Spirit’s words and picked him up. Then taking large strides, he approached the tree behind which Meng was hiding and said politely, “Miss, forgive us for not being able to agree to your request. Here is your sword. Please take it.”
Meng nervously stuck part of her head out. When she saw that the soldier had already placed his sword back into its sheath, and was holding her sword out with both hands, waiting for her to take it away, she finally stretched out her hand and quickly snatched away her sword. At the same time, she uttered quietly, “Thank you.”
The soldier smiled, and returned to his post.
“You, you really are a coward from head to toe.” Sword Spirit said crossly.
Meng also felt a little embarrassed. It was a little too much to have thrown Sword Spirit like that in front of the two guys carrying swords just now, so she also did not dare to refute his words. She could only change the subject, “We can’t go in, so what do we do now?”
“Who says we can’t go in?” Sword Spirit smiled slyly, “I have my own brilliant plan!”
“What brilliant plan?” An alarm bell suddenly went off in her head.
Sword Spirit said slowly, “Scale the walls.”
Meng was so shocked that her mouth dropped open. Then she stuttered, “Sc-Scale the wall?”
“Correct. Hurry up. I scanned the place just now and discovered that other than the gate, there aren’t many people patrolling the other areas. Can you see that tree in the distance over there? The one beside the outer walls of the palace? Use that tree to climb up. You’ll definitely be able to climb in.” As Sword Spirit pointed out the distant tree with his eyes, he relentlessly urged Meng to hurry.
Meng was morose as she obeyed his words and headed over. Since that tree could be seen from afar, naturally it was quite tall. Meng stood under the tree and quietly estimated it to be three to four times her height. If she wasn’t careful and fell down… Just thinking of such a horrible situation made her body go weak.
“Can I not climb up?” Meng begged pitifully.
Sword Spirit denied her immediately, “No, hurry and climb. Who asked you to throw me down so heartlessly just now?”
Sure enough, he was avenging his personal grudge in the name of their interests. In her heart, Meng was silently remorseful over her actions of leaving Sword Spirit behind. She stuck her sword back into the bag and cautiously began climbing the tree. Luckily, this tree had a lot of deformities. There were many burls and branches that grew out horizontally that Meng could use to clumsily advance on upwards. However, her climbing speed was truly slow; in particular, the closer she got to the end, the slower she climbed. At the same time, she had an impulse to look downwards, yet she was too afraid to dare to.
“Don’t look down. Look up.” When Sword Spirit noticed that something was wrong, he immediately gave Meng a warning to stop her constant thoughts of looking down.
Meng swallowed and pulled back her gaze that was just about to glance down. She continued climbing upwards, and during this time, Sword Spirit also kept shouting “almost there,” “just one more step” to cheer her on.
All of a sudden, Meng accidentally broke the branch she was stepping on and her entire body slipped down instantly. In this dire situation, Meng was flustered and wildly grabbed around her, looking like a blind person. She caught hold of a large branch, and she finally stopped sliding downward. Even though her two legs were still dangling in the air, overall, she had managed to escape the tragedy of falling back onto the ground. At this moment, Meng’s face was covered in sweat, and she felt that her heart was going to jump out of her chest.
“Be careful. Don’t step on branches that are too thin.” Sword Spirit warned her nervously.
Meng looked left and right, and found a sufficiently large branch by her feet. She stepped onto it, and once more started climbing up one step at a time. Her speed this time was even slower than before, but it was sure-footed, and nothing like falling down happened again. At long last, Meng reached the highest branch. Feeling exhausted, she sat down onto the branch and spent some time catching her breath.
When she raised her eyes, to her surprise, it was already close to nightfall. As the weather had been considerably sunny, the sky was nearly void of pink clouds. There was only the setting sun that looked like half of a giant tangerine. The reddish-orange sunset made it seem as if a container of paint had been overturned, and had splashed all over the entire city.
The evening breeze blew past, and Meng, who had climbed so much that her entire body was covered in perspiration and feeling hot, immediately felt cool and refreshed. Together with the scenery in front of her eyes, she couldn’t help but feel intoxicated by the view. “It’s beautiful.”
Sword Spirit said without replying to her comment, “Climbing a tree is like going through life.”
“Going through life?” Meng asked doubtfully, feeling that this simile was rather extreme.
Sword Spirit nodded, and as he gazed at the setting sun, said, “You must always keep looking up. If you keep looking down, and are afraid of falling, you will never dare to climb high. Also, the higher you climb, the more careful every step you take must be. Because if you fall, you’ll fall very, very badly.”
Meng nodded half-understandingly, and Sword Spirit continued, “But then, even though the process of climbing the tree is very hard, after climbing up, you will be able to see the most beautiful scenery.”
When Sword Spirit finished speaking, Meng did not respond. Sword Spirit cast an odd look at her, and saw that although her eyes were looking at the landscape before her, her gaze was very misty and her expression looked dazed. Sword Spirit shook his body, attempting to wake up this woman lost in her thoughts, before said woman was so dazed that she might fall out of the tree.