Chapter 21: Not A Lotus
I am not a lotus, the lotus is born in mud and is not tainted, washes clear and not demonic, and I, was not born in mud yet already tainted in a body of dirt, officialdom is of chaos, only the white lotus can survive, therefore I am not a lotus, already tainted by demons.
The pouring rain smoothly runs, each drip extending endlessly, the sound of pattering drifting across the entire Capital City, four honoured guests arrives outside the old manor, south of the city, one Jiang Nan silk umbrella, distinguishes the noble status of the arriving person. The side doors of the manor opens, an old servant probes his head out to glance around, immediately opening the red wooden doors, bowing as he invites the person inside, and then carefully looks around the outer area, once he finds nothing out of ordinary, he quietly closes the doors again.
“Gentleman, you have finally come.” Fiery Xi Shi suffered half a day of waiting for Gui Wan, hurriedly getting up to greet her, one hand holding up the well brewed tea, personally handing it over to Gui Wan’s hands.
The heat warms up her body, a single hand flicking off the traces of rain on her body, Gui Wan turns her head asking: “How has San Niang been recently?”
“Thanks to gentleman’s blessing, everything has been going smoothly.” Fiery Xi Shi was filled with smiles, catching a glimpse of the two maids Ru Qing, Ru Ming behind Gui Wan, she was somewhat surprised, since she had moved to the Capital, this is the first time she has seen the two following Gui Wan. Ru Qing, Ru Ming slightly nods their heads, counting that as a greeting, because of their inadequate protection last time, resulting in losing Gui Wan, they had received severe punishment upon returning to the Prime Minister Estate, following Gui Wan again this time, they dare not to show any negligence at all, like shadows following the figure, alert at all times.
Only after waving her hand in signal to have all the servants withdraw, did Fiery Xi Shi lead Gui Wan’s party, walking up to the loft, beaded curtains serving as a room divider, fresh and elegant, just like a woman’s bed chambers, leaving Lou Sheng to wait outside, the four women enters the room.
“Gentleman,” Letting Gui Wan sit by the window seat, Fiery Xi Shi turns around and rummages through the bookshelf, picking out a book that looks like an account book, placing it before Gui Wan, reporting in a leisurely manner: “Over the past month, a total of two merchants taking the route from Qu Zhou into the Capital has been purchased and acquired, over twenty warriors has been called upon, amongst them there are three who are of top class; over ten literary people have been called upon, four in particular holds great knowledge and bold vision; over ten people from the three religions and the nine schools of philosophy has been called upon, each has their own individual skills. There is also a list of officials that have been won over in there.” All matters, big and small, have all been explained in great detail.
Gui Wan picks up the account book, roughly skimming through two pages, and closes it again, “San Niang’s handling of affairs, I can trust.” Do not doubt the ones you employ, this principle she is well aware of.
“How did gentleman come to worrying your way over here? Why not wait till the rain has stopped before coming?” This “gentleman” has never been urgent nor panic stricken when doing things, as though her mind is absent, she appears to be more initiative this time, towards grasping hold of the dynamic aspects within the Capital City, she seems extremely enthusiastic.
Gui Wan smiles upon hearing this, looking out of the window, she does not answer. Listening to the constant pitter-pattering of the rain, her heart feeling fed up, it has already been over a month, since she has left the palace, yet there has not been the slightest of movement, day after say, like the calm before the storm, waiting for the thunder to clap, yet not a sound is heard, one sound will certainly leave people shocked. That abnormally demonic emperor, how is he most amiable of the generation? Lou Che also seems to have sensed something, sending back Ru Qing, Ru Ming, to protect her at all times, casting a net called “protection” all around her, wanting to have her safely tucked under his wing. Heart slightly warming up, Gui Wan sounds a light sound of seeming lament, seeming sigh. She is not a white lotus, so how is she to grow out of the mud without being tainted?
“Gentleman,” Cutting off Gui Wan’s deep thoughts, Fiery Xi Shi takes back the account book that no one looked through, lightly saying, “The matter you told me to find out about, is already showing signs of a positive outcome.”
Those words seems to have attracted a great amount of interest from Gui Wan, taking back her eyes that were gazing out afar, her brows slightly twitches, an appearance as though she is all ears.
“This imperial court is split into two factions, it is a fact known by all, one faction is Prince Duan, one faction is Prime Minister Lou, but during this past month, we have exhausted all means, practically looking into every members within the Capital, and finally found that this imperial court is far from being so simple. On the surface, there are two lines within the court, but there is actually another group that is the “protect the emperor” faction, Prince Duan has the unique power of the imperial family, Prime Minister Lou has the power of making military and political decisions, as for the military leadership power, it is held in the hands of the renowned Lin military clan, the Lin clan holds unwavering loyalty, can be said to be the force that the current emperor can truly depend on.
“The Lin’s military forces has been scattered outside the north and southern borders of the Celestial Empire, his majesty wanting to rely on this to protect himself, is it not no different to faraway water sources unable to quench his nearby thirst?” That highly unpredictable Son of Heaven would quietly resign himself to his death just like that?
“That is the second important point that we have found out,” Fiery Xi Shi deliberately sells this climatic plot, acting mysterious as she says, “Do you perhaps know, there are some officials within the Capital, appears to belong to Lou, Duan, both parties, but are actually ministers that holds unwavering loyalty to the imperial family?”
“What you mean is, some people could possibly be deliberately placed by Lou, Duan’s sides by the his majesty himself?”
“That’s right ah, the more I investigate, the more I feel this Capital City truly is a pool of dragons and tigers, impossibly deep.” Fiery Xi Shi worriedly sounds a sigh, although she does not know exactly what this “gentleman” is guarding against, but has already revealed a faintly entangled connection with the imperial city.
Gui Wan knits her brows together, “All of this, how did you find out?” If everything really is as San Niang has said, within this officialdom, everyone acting like the enemy of the enemy, then it really is difficult to distinguish them clearly.
“I followed your orders, buying two merchants that takes the route from Qu Zhou into the Capital, these two guilds originally does business with the imperial palace, many goods within the palace has been bought from the outside world through the channels of these two guilds, now they have already been secretly transferred under gentleman’s name.”
Silently praising her, Gui Wan reveals a smile, politics within the imperial court comes from the bigger hands, whilst women in politics has always shown their prestige from little places, this is the ingeniousness within the battles of intrigues, the so called eight immortals crossing the sea, is nothing more than each making a show of their own supernatural powers.
Seeing her smile spread open, Fiery Xi Shi could not help but to cheer up also, sitting across from Gui Wan, after smiling, her worries once again rises, unable to refrain from mentioning: “Gentleman, why do you have to investigate all this? Could it be……”
This word of could it be did not dare to add anymore words after it, only afraid that seeing the root of all this, she herself will have difficulty in leaving all this chaos.
Seeming to understand the complicated conflicts within San Niang’s heart, she lightly savours the clear tea, Gui Wan changes the topic: “San Niang, in your opinion, if his majesty wants to become the sole power holder, what should be done?”
Startled, Fiery Xi Shi looks at Gui Wan in surprise, noticing that she seems to only be curious, and does not have any particular intentions, her crazily pounding heart caused by that shocking question finally settles down, slowly replying: “If this is truly what is wanted, there is only the one method to cut off the powers and rid of the two.”
“Then what if he were to gather imperial power within an extremely short amount of time, how could that be done?”
Pondering in silence, Fiery Xi Shi speaks up with difficulty after a long time: “Can only rid of them, and also, for it to be perfectly justifiable, the best way is assassination.”
A clear sound of laughter escapes from Gui Wan’s sealed lips, looking directly at San Niang, making sense of everything as she says: “Perfectly justifiable? After the assassination, first of all they can announce the passing to the world whilst concealing the reason, even if this is unsuccessful, can also push it onto someone else, framing others, truly a great plan, even the after moves are so perfect.”
Fiery Xi Shi feels a chill in her heart, her hair standing on end, only feeling like the rain outside the window are all dripping into her heart, stirring up the confusion within her, whilst also giving rise to an inexplicable sense of fear.
The two of them sits in front of the window, lightly discussing, the dispute within the imperial court, whilst laughing and chatting, pointing out the stormy situation.
A sound of doors opening sounds from the main entrance, Fiery Xi Shi stands up and looks down, under one glance, she appears joyful, turning to Gui Wan, saying: “Almost forgot to tell you, a few days ago, I called for a great talent with great knowledge and bold vision, who applied wanting to see you.”
The tea that was raised towards her lips, because of those words, was placed down before it touched her lips, Gui Wan supports her cheek with one hand, thinly smiling, “What? Someone wants to see me?”
“That’s right ah, he was able to tell I am not the real one in command at one glance, he applied to see the true master, you see, he has come right now.” Fiery Xi Shi who stood leaning against the windowsill, chuckles as she says this.
Struck by an impulse, Gui Wan also stands up, looking down, under one glance, her face suddenly changes slightly, immediately shaking her head, returning to her seat, her smile lightly gathered up, quietly muttering: “Why has he come here?”
Able to hear her whisper, Fiery Xi Shi turns around, feeling puzzled, before she could ask anything, Gui Wan reveals a trace of seeming ridicule, seeming satire, in her elegant smile, “San Niang, dismiss him, don’t let him detect anything.”
“Could it be that gentleman knows him?” Only from seeing Gui Wan’s actions, she already knows that she knows the identity of the person, San Niang inevitably became somewhat curious.
“Not familiar with, but he is actually his majesty’s loyal minister……” Sounding a grieving sigh, Gui Wan takes a drink of clear tea, watching San Niang follow her orders to go downstairs and dismiss the person, her eyes appears faintly distant within the steam of the tea, “This rain, just when will it stop?”
“Seems to still not left,” Fiery Xi Shi glances downstairs, feeling somewhat interested, “Gentleman, just who exactly is this person?”
“’Wall of Qi Ling’ General Lin’s military advisor, although a literary man, but has fought on the battlefields for many years, famous for his ingenuity.” Gui Wan tirelessly speaks of the person’s identity, rotating the porcelain cup in hand. The delicacy of the clear tea has already scattered, the wearing out patience whilst waiting also follows it in losing its warmth.
“With him waiting at the back door, how are you to leave?” Fiery Xi Shi also senses where the tricky situation lies, silently speculating the purpose of this military advisor’s sudden arrival. This place has been going through huge movements throughout the past month, could it be that it has already attracted the court’s attention? Looking up, she sees that Gui Wan had already stood up, and was absolutely surprised, “Gentleman?”
Prideful eyes turning to her, laughingly saying: “Since this is how it is, I shall leave through the main doors, leaving honourably.”
Fiery Xi Shi was stunned for a moment, a smile spreading to her eyes, during the past month, those main doors, has seen many people coming in and out, even if “gentleman” is to leave through the main doors, it will not attract too much attention, not to mention with the haziness from the rain right now, it makes a natural barrier. Hurriedly standing up, she accompanies Gui Wan’s party to the front doors, personally opening up a silk umbrella, handing it to the hands of Ru Qing.
“San Niang, I will leave everything here to you then.” Turning around with a smile, Gui Wan carefully asks of her, her figure standing under the umbrella, because of the continuous streams of rain separating them, as though a wall of thread has formed in between, all appears unreal.
The dripping water from the eaves forms a wall, San Niang leaves the rain and fog, staring at that moment, a deep bow, half of her body bent over, her lips not answering anything. The pouring rain, because of this bow, carries three points of dignified colour, but was very soon covered up by the rain. Once San Niang once again lifts her eyes again, not a shadow within the courtyard could be seen, the air left with the lingering light fragrance of red sandalwood, the clear wind and running rain like thread like wire.
Gui Wan steps out of the courtyard, all that can be seen appears to be the misty drizzles, like a painting of leaking ink. Stepping onto this ink like road and coming up to the alleyway, Lou Sheng was already waiting beside the horse carriage, before he could welcome her, an additional silhouette suddenly appears within the alley, positioned between the clutters of raindrops, he approaches, Ru Qing holds the umbrella in one hand, her hand like a blade, striking at the sudden arrival, Ru Ming immediately reacts, the shadow of her hand makes a swing, following right after. Three hands simultaneously striking at the person.
Ru Qing, Ru Ming’s martial arts may not be the best, but it is victorious in the seamless understanding between them, upon working together, their power doubles up even more, with no flaws. But all of this seems to have lost its use when facing the unexpected arrival, rainwater splashes all around, with only a blink of the eyes, the unexpected arrival returns the attack of the two people, and continues to approach. Ru Qing frowns, Ru Ming overturns her hand wanting to attack again, but hears Gui Wan’s clear cold voice: “Stop.”
Upon hearing this, Ru Ming immediately retracts her hands, withdrawing to the side, gracefully standing there, as though she did not even move just now.
The unexpected arrival also withdraws his fighting stance, the rainwater wetting his clothes, wetting his hair, wetting his forehead, sliding down the outlines of that handsomely cold face, his beautiful and clear eyes exhibiting shock, bewilderment, helplessness, and also slight show of senselessness from the drenching of the rain.
“General Lin.” Although the unexpected arrival senses something unusual, Gui Wan still greets him with a smile.
Tightly pressing his lips together, but not saying a single word, only reaching out to take the umbrella from Ru Qing’s hand, his voice neither high nor low, saying: “Allow me to accompany Madam for a little walk.”
Lightly nodding, Gui Wan gives her consent, abandoning the horse carriage, slowly walking into the pouring rain.
This walk seems to be very long, but also doesn’t seem to be as long as one thinks, like a quiet promise, as though settling deep into empty loneliness, the deep silence slowly follows the rainwater, flowing into the heart, the heart filled up with a pool of spring water, yet it does not at all feel calm, green waves slightly raising, expanding rings of ripples that floats above.
He always carries a deeply calm atmosphere around him, even standing next to him can give rise to a sense of trust. The a scene of mistiness before her eyes, with no objects nor figures entering her vision, Gui Wan turns her head, noticing that half of his body is standing within the rain, yet he firmly holds the umbrella over her, lips faintly raising a smile, she parts her lips, about to speak up.
“Madam,” After a long silence, Lin Rui En was first to break the dull vibe, eyes firmly locked in front, steadily walking, “Recently, the two merchant channels from Qu Zhou to the Capital has changed ownership overnight, in the southern outskirts of the Capital there is also someone recruiting talents, Military Advisor was occasionally informed, repeatedly reminding me, this is someone establishing eyes and ears within the Capital, although it has not grown big right now, but it will definitely become a new force in the future, advising me to take precautions.”
The words she originally wanted to say were not spoken, Gui Wan quietly listens, her face unchanging, her face with not a single bit of abnormality shows not a trace of flaw.
“Military Advisor has already been waiting outside this manor for four days, today he told me, the real one in command will definitely come. Otherwise, they would not so resolutely send him out, I always act accordingly in a fitting and proper way, so I could only stick with the plan of sitting back in hopes of gaining something.” 
“Truly is a great plan,” Gently sounding a laugh, Gui Wan speaks after him, unable to help but to think to herself, this military advisor is indeed formidable, able to assess San Niang’s behaviour today, and guess that I have come, such amazing intelligence. And although General Lin’s approach is an old strategy, it is still extremely effective. “So, General waited at the alley by the main doors today, and it just happens that the one you were waiting for is me?”
Walking out of the alley, a pale grey brick road jumps into their eyes, Lin Rui En slows down his pace, gradually coming to a stop, turning to face Gui Wan, asking in an unusually firm manner: “Can Madam explain, why you have shown up in this place?”
She had already figured he would ask this, but the moment she hears this, there was still the feeling of being slightly stunned, Gui Wan raises her head, the first thing that meets her eyes is actually Lin Rui En’s determined jaw, and then it was those pair of eyes that, although having fought through many battles, killing countless people, is still able to appear clear and bright, her heart makes flip, leisurely, lightly asking: “Is General suspecting me?”
Lin Rui En’s cold expression because of this voice carrying a bit of hidden bitterness, loosens a little, and then immediately fades away, his face revealing a look of hesitation, whatever he originally wanted to say, in the end he refrained from saying it, silently waiting for Gui Wan’s explanation.
Secretly lamenting, Gui Wan also feels at a loss as to what to do, speaking up: “General has misunderstood, this manor is the legacy left behind by my late mother, it has once accompanied me through a period of beautiful years throughout my childhood, a month ago, it had already been transferred under the property of another person, me coming here today, is only to see this place filled with memories everywhere, and pay homage to my late mother whilst I am here.” Uttering reasons of dignified words yet insincere in substance, seamlessly concealing the truth.
Listening to the reasoning, Lin Rui En was neither surprised nor happy, only indifferently nodding his head lightly a few times, taking a deep look at Gui Wan. “Since this is the case, Madam, it is I who was reckless today, may you excuse my offenses.”
Shaking her head twice, Gui Wan accepts it with a smile, the sound of the horse carriage wheels behind is already closing in, Ru Qing, Ru Ming comes forward, looking at Lin Rui En on guard.
“Excuse me for bothering you, a little drizzle can damage your health, quickly go board the carriage.” Lin Rui En hands the umbrella in hand over to Gui Wan, gently advising her, such faint show of warmth making a rare appearance on that cold face.
The umbrella handle still carries slight heat, what Gui Wan took hold of seemed to be a piece of warmth, within her pool of deep and calm eyes, there is a slight leak of surprise and guilt, half masking her eyes, she turns around and heads towards the horse carriage. What she originally thought would be an entanglement of interrogation and investigation, actually turned out to come to an end in such a simple way, exactly is this fortunate or unfortunate? Her heart gives rise to a deep sense of being unable to figure it out, forcing her to have no choice but to take another look back, looking at the Lin Rui En who has his back facing the carriage.
Just one glance only.
Amongst the drizzling rain like silk threads, the entire world is a dim scene of light grey, but that young warrior standing in the rain actually exhibits an independent show of colours within this monochrome world, that face of stern lines clearing up within the haziness, Gui Wan could even clearly see the water beads on his hair slightly tremble along with his movements. Clearly does things independently, yet carries a strong sturdy build; is clearly warm hearted, yet wedges himself between barriers like ice; is clearly so lenient, yet keeps that heart as big as the sea hidden under many layers……
“General, a little drizzle can damage your health.”
His entire body coldly allowing the rain to mercilessly hit his body, when all of a sudden, his face loses the cold showering, a sweet laughing tone passes by his ears, the words said are so familiar, Lin Rui En looks back in surprise, and is met with Gui Wan’s shallow frown and soft chuckle, holding an umbrella, covering those endless strings of rain.
Unfeelingly accepting the umbrella, also forgetting to say a word of thanking, Lin Rui En watches Gui Wan step onto the horse carriage, the horse’s hooves raises, gradually heading faraway, remaining silent for a long while, in the end, when the subject in his eyes disappears from sight, he reveals a hint of an extremely rare display of a bitter smile.
Not knowing how long he stood there for, a wheezing figure comes running in from behind, the splashing raindrop reveals the hastiness of the approaching person: “General, did you already see the mastermind behind everything?” Seeming somewhat excited, hidden with an underlying intention of gloating.
Lin Rui En turns around, seeing the literary man’s excessively panting state, his face expressionless, just when the literary man reveals a face filled with a load of questions, he coldly says: “No, I didn’t see.”
Clearly appearing to not be able to accept this answer, the literary man stares right at him, carefully studying Lin Rui En’s face, but cannot see a particularly solemn silence, being very confident in his own intelligence, and is also unwilling to admit his own errors in judgement, he could only deeply frown in distress, calculating in his head where he went wrong. Right in this moment of remaining perplexed despite much thoughts, he raises his head and see that silk umbrella……silk umbrella?
One doubt after another expanding in his mind, yet the literary man does not speak again to ask anything, his eyes remaining on the umbrella for a while, sounding a hearty laughter: “Since there is no discovery, then forget it, General, go head back to the estate first.” Such smile not reaching those experienced and sharp witted eyes, which instead appears even deeper in thoughts.
In the end did General Lin……Gui Wan recalls that scene over and over again, is it that lonely back view that was far too heart stirring, or is it that speechless expression when he accepted the umbrella in surprise that sticks in her mind? When thinking back, she cannot help but to wonder, did that reason really convince him? Or……
“Gui Wan.” Lou Che helplessly calls out softly, why is her concentration so lax? Getting distracted several times, making him strangely feel a little flustered and slightly sour, exactly what is making her think so much, hanging on her heart? A frightful sharp flash flickers past under his eyes, it is difficult for him to tolerate anyone or anything lingering in Gui Wan’s heart.
Gui Wan does not hesitate to reveal a sweet smile, asking: “What was Husband saying just now?”
Clearly knowing that in face of her smile, he is incapable of keeping a firm stance, he could only helplessly sigh, Lou Che repeats the matter he mentioned before all over again: “Lady Consort Ying is feeling dejected within the palace, his majesty cherishes her, and is determined to accompany her in an recreational incognito tour, the location is Mount Feng (maple mountain) in the northern outskirts, ministers of the imperial court are to bring their families along, monarch and subjects sharing the joy.”
The fruit offering in hand lands on the floor upon hearing this, Gui Wan blinks her eyes, her smile fading, lightly asking: “What did Husband say? Monarch and subjects sharing the joy, touring Mount Feng?” When Lou Che affirmatively nods his head in slight shock and bewilderment, a chord in Gui Wan’s heart sounds a “peng” before snapping, hundreds of mixed feelings gathering within her chest, that demonic emperor, just exactly what is he planning?
 Eight immortals crossing the sea or bā xiān guò hǎi / 八仙过海 - a story symbolising the overcoming of difficulties or doing something marvellous through someone’s special skills.
The Eight Immortals are a group of legendary Taoist immortals in Chinese mythology.
This is one of the most fantastic stories about the Eight Immortals. One day, when the Eight Immortals arrive at the East Sea, the sea is extremely rough, with turbulent waves. Lü Dongbin proposes that each immortal cross the sea through his or her special skills by projecting something onto the sea surface. So, Iron Crutch Li throws his instrument-the crutch (or “bottle gourd” in other versions of the story); Han Zhongli hurls his palm-leaf fan; Elder Zhangguo puts his “paper donkey” into the sea and other immortals all cast their own instruments. Thus all of them have successfully crossed the stormy East Sea. Later, the story is used to symbolize overcoming difficulties or doing something marvelous through someone’s special skills.
 Sitting back in hopes of gaining something is actually called shǒu zhū dài tù / 守株待兔 which translates to keeping watch at the tree awaiting a rabbitand actually derives from one of the more well-known Chinese idiom stories.
In the state of Song, during the Spring & Autumn period (770-476 B.C.), there lived a farmer who had a tree in his field. Whenever he was tired from working, he would rest under the tree.
One day, while he was working in his field, a panic-stricken rabbit suddenly ran past him, crashed blindly into the tree and died, having broken its neck.
The farmer happily picked up the rabbit, planning to take it home for a delicious rabbit stew dinner.
From then on, he abandoned his plow and no longer worked in his field. He waited by the tree hoping that another rabbit would run into it and die.
However, it did not happen again and the farmer became an object of ridicule. He ended up with nothing and his fields lay fallow and bare.
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