King Neath’s Eldest Daughter
King Neath grew more restless and morose by the day ever since Baimu left. Rumours of King Neath assaulting servants and vandalising palatial decorations in the palace were abound. Imported soups were fed to dogs. Ginseng imported from Beijiang was fed to fires. Sixteen dishes an imperial chef from the Central Plain cooked were fed to a pond. An innocent suckling pig and the roasting setup were kicked over yesterday. The only reason King Neath’s bowls survived were because they were made from pure gold.
Despite the madness, the maids, who were on the receiving end of King Neath, were worried for his health as he had fasted for seven days until a maid discovered shortbread crumbs by the side of his pillow. She, needless to say, couldn’t fathom why he’d refuse to eat his set meals and sneak out to eat dry rations instead.
King Neath’s Princess Consort rose earlier today to prepare a meal for King Neath and then headed to his residential palace, only for him to order, “Leave it outside. I shall eat after I have finished reading the war report.”
“It’s admirable for you to be so devoted to your work. Howbeit, you must take care of your health. You have not eaten at all in days. I am worried sick about you.”
King Neath’s Princess Consort didn’t speak as formally to him when they were alone. Due to their age gap, she sounded closer to a sister speaking to her younger brother. Moreover, she had been helping him on the side ever since he inherited the throne. He, in turn, showed her respect.
Behind the bed curtains his Princess Consort pulled open were King Neath, who would’ve easily been mistaken as a new concubine, and reports scattered across the bed. His Princess Consort had seen that scene enough times to not bat an eyelid anymore.
“You have to eat no matter how busy you are. I even personally cooked for you.”
King Neath neither spared his Princess Consort a glance or scowled the way he did at his servants. “… I thought I told you to leave it there. I’ll eat when I can afford to.”
“Neath, are you going to disobey me?” While she had a charming curve to her lips, King Neath’s Princess Consort did sound as authoritative as she did gentle. “Get up and eat.”
Like a stubborn kid, King Neath slowly raised his head and drawled, “Okay.”
King Neath got out of bed to get dressed. His uncharacteristic docility mixed with his deliberate slow motions – a way of conveying defiance – would have the maids swooning over him. Perhaps that was why his Princess Consort let him have his way whilst smiling to herself.
“… Thank you.” King Neath finally expressed after sitting at the table for almost a minute.
“Silly boy. Don’t worry about that. Dig in.”
King Neath just stared at the bowl of soup his Princess Consort passed him.
“What’s the matter? It’s your favourite. It’s going to be cold if you keep staring.”
King Neath looked up at his Princess Consort and then peered at the window. Speaking from behind his teeth, he replied, “Uhm…. It is my favourite.”
King Neath was ready to have the soup when someone running outside cried, “Why are you stopping me?! We have trouble! Someone is storming into the palace right now to see Guya Martial Paragon! He has already toppled over a hundred guards! Your Majesty, your subordinate went to Guya Martial Paragon, but he said he cannot leave the stable without your permission! Let me go! Your Majesty! Your Majesty! We have trouble! Someone is storming into the palace to see Guya Martial Paragon! What should we do?!”
King Neath sprung to his feet. “Th-there’s an emergency. We might have a strong intruder. I will eat once I get back. We need Feng Xue to stop the intruder first.”
“No.” King Neath’s Princess Consort caught him mid-stride and put him back in his seat. “I rose early to prepare this meal for you,” she said as she held the bowl of soup up to his mouth with a smile. “You can go after you have this bowl of soup.”
The darkness in her eyes defeated King Neath.
King Neath hit the concrete running upon changing and lacing up his boots. He had his military gear worn over his overcoat and carried a blade on his belt even though it was just a trip to the conference room, where Feng Xue was waiting.
“Feng Xue, you know we have a trespasser. Do you know what the consequences of letting someone disturb our breakfast is?!”
Standing at the bottom of the golden staircase, Feng Xue responded, “This old one apologises.”
“Why have you not stopped the infiltrator when they are looking for you and demand I grant you an audience?”
Feng Xue performed visual recon of King Neath’s eyes prior to answering, “This old one is but a guest. He has not been disciplined for offending you. As a criminal, he has no freedom. As he has no freedom, how can he see a guest?”
“Don’t play word games with me. If you don’t take a stand when someone is imposing on me, where is your loyalty?! You abandoned my father the same way back then… Men, detain that braised pork shoulders in soy sauce whatever! If a hundred men aren’t enough, send five hundred. If five hundred aren’t enough, send a thousand!”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
“As for this cur, I shall personally discipline him. Take him to Anyewu Hall!”
Anyewu Hall, the place for Baimu’s King to personally interrogate prisoners, had “Anye” (dark night) in its name precisely because it was so dark that blood wasn’t visible. Being interrogated in that hall was humiliating to warriors of Nanjiang, which was why King Neath’s vassals immediately urged him to reconsider his decision.
“The next person to plead for him will be executed!” wasn’t enough to deter the senior vassals from continue trying to dissuade King Neath. Nonetheless, King Neath kicked the first vassal to defy him and then personally dragged Feng Xue off.
King Neath kicked Feng Xue into the hall at shut the door behind him – not forgetting to grab a hammer first. At this point, nobody could interfere with anything that took place inside for it was a rule that nobody could step inside.
Subsequent to the sound of the door closing behind him, King Neath’s tone changed. “Feng Xue, save me.”
“This old one knew there had to be more to why you asked a soldier to risk his life to summon him back, yet you did not mention a word of it. Your Majesty, what happened? Also… why are you a boy now?”
Feng Xue didn’t recall the previous King of Baimu having a son. His only daughter was Ah Neath – the current monarch of Baimu.
“I don’t have time to explain the whole story!” The girl in disguise clutched Feng Xue’s shoulders. “Great Spirit Shaman and that conniving Princess Consort are conspiring against me. If you don’t help me, I will only have a few more days to live!”