They first met on a bridge, under a pouring rain.
He wore the disguise of a poor, harmless scholar, half of his face hidden under a wide-brimmed hat and a nondescript umbrella. He crossed the bridge from one end.
The other man approached from another. He was dressed in white—pearly-white robe with silver-white trims and sash, and a cloak of white fur draped over his shoulders. His pale, beautiful face was framed by long, neat hair that tumbled over his shoulders like a black waterfall. Behind this curtain of rain, he looked like an apparition not of this world.
Several more steps brought them even closer, now enough for him to discern a jade flute resting on the other man’s waist.
Shiyuan kept his pace steady and his gaze downward, intently studying the ripples his feet made on fast-flowing water over stone. His ears picked up no other sound but two pairs of footfalls and the unceasing rain. Even the wind seemed to have died down, reduced to weak, ghostly caresses across his cold cheeks.
They were three steps away.
And then two.
The air swirled between them, a breeze that carried the fragrance of crushed blossoms. Shiyuan felt the hair on the back of his neck rising, but he feigned ignorance. His feet never paused and soon the pressure eased with each step that increased the distance between them.
Then it disappeared—the sound of another set of footsteps lost in the constant drumming of raindrops. He stopped at the end of the bridge, and only then did he chance a glance backward.
There was no one in sight.
Shiyuan felt a grim smile prick his lips. How ironic, to receive a welcome greeting from the man he had come to kill.
But then again, fate was allowed its little tricks. His purpose would not change.