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16 The Boat Lord Over General




The dark sky was dazzled by countless stars. Soft music filled the air while the background noise of the Imperial City night life could be heard from afar. During the day it had been hot but now a chilly wind was invigorating their bodies. Le-anne yawned tiredly and started massaging her wrists. This was a habit that would have caused Mistress Kei to scrunch her nose and curse at her for being unlady like.

"Are you sure you do not want to take a sip?" Mistress Han prodded.

"Alcohol is not good for my skin." The princess pushed back the jar that contained brewed wine.

"Ohww... be careful." She chastised. They were sitting on the kitchen rooftop and gazing at the beautiful stars.

"The person playing that piece is quite skilled." Princess Le-anne's body swayed to the rhythm of the tune. "My mother was amazing. She was one who didn't sing songs to lull me to sleep but preferred to play the guqin." She sighed, trying to get rid of the ache in her heart. There was a big pit that she wished she could get rid of, but to this day, it was still eating her alive. Nothing was big enough to replace her mother.

Mistress Han rubbed her back in understanding.

"I know how your mother must feel," she said with compassion, and Princess Le-anne looked at her with confusion.

"Her name is Dao," Mistress Han said before taking a sip. "She had just turned seven when I sent her away."

'Mistress Han has a daughter?'

"Aaa..." The princess was speechless.

"It was the only way. I'm a courtesan and so were my Mother and Grandmother... You know how poorly we are treated by the society. I could not bare to let the same fate befall my daughter."

"Where did you send her?" Le-anne said, finding herself sympathising.

"The palace," she said and looked up at the sky. "If she does well for herself, they will bestow the court lady title on her, then she won't be considered a low borne anymore."

"Palace maids are palace women who belong to the emperor, this means she will never get married."

"I know."

At that moment, Princess Le-anne realised that she could never understand her. The world was just like that, many people were in pain one way or another and they were just trying to survive, to go on.

"I also know that you have your eye on the palace. You are going to use the Summer Festival dance as your gateway, aren't it?" Mistress Han reclined backwards and lay her back on the stoney roof.

"Yes." Le-anne did not deny it. Mistress Han was intelligent enough to put two and two together. How much she knew or suspected, she had no idea and neither did she wish to find out.

"The one who desires the crown must bear the weight," her mistress said, exhaling. "Please look for my Dao when you get there." Mistress Han reached for Le-anne's hand and kneaded it with her fingers.

Princess Le-anne didn't respond, not agreeing nor rejecting. The future was hazy, so unknown; whether she would do well in the palace or not was not definite. In spite of all expectations, men propose but God can dispose.

She then looked below and caught sight of Young Miss Ai running around in the garden, chasing after one of the Lady Queens. She could hear her laughing aloud to her heart's content. It pleased her heart to see her so happy and how she had easily fit in. At least she had done something right so far. The girl was enjoying her life.

"Dance for the sun!! Make the moon jealous..." Mistress Han waved her hands in the air and sung groggily. Le-anne could not help herself but laugh in awe. It was too precious.

"Do you know of the story called Ballard of the Desert?" She turned around to stare at the princess and leaned on her side, her head resting on her hand.

Le-anne shook her head.

"It's about a wolf girl who ventured into the city after years of living with wolves. She then fell in love with a wealthy crippled boat lord and a talented general who had never lost any battle. Can my lady guess who won her heart?" Mistress Han shook her hand in excitement.

Princess Le-anne simpered.

It seemed like the story was quite famous and many generals had started to fantasise about it. Her mind reflected on the night a certain someone boasted about his so-called victories when she was on the Dura Mountain.

"The crippled boat lord?"

"Yes," she sighed, "but she ended up with the General, how unfair."

Le-anne chuckled, "Does that sort of General exist?"

"What kind?"

"The one who has never lost?"

Mistress Han laughed before saying, "Maybe if he is the Emperor."

"The Emperor?"

"I have heard he has overwhelming military power of about 800,000 soldiers and 300,000 secret forces. He seems to be unstoppable. Moreover, I've also heard some rumors stating that he has never lost in any battle, he is truly fearless." Her mistress hauled herself up and started shaking the wine jar. "Waaah... No emperor has held such power, especially at his age."

Hopeless. Le-anne felt so hopeless. General Feng didn't have access to information about the Dura Mountain Camp, and the more time elapsed, it was like the general who stole from her was non-existent... like she had imagined him. They had also gone as far as researching on the manors next to the cinnabari tree, where they had met, but none seemed to be owned by some general.

"Is anything the matter?" Mistress Han looked at her with concern.

"Beside me losing my silver pins, gold, silk cloth and pendant to some general who has never lost in a battle, everything is fine."

Mistress Han choked on her wine.

"And that's why I would choose the crippled boat lord over the general if I were the wolf girl." She continued, ignoring Mistress Han's wild reaction.

"Gold!?" The woman shrieked deliriously, hitting her repeatedly. "Li Lian, you are a fool!"

Did she have to repeat what Le-anne already knew?