Chapter 8: Between Life And Death
“Wa~ such a pretty woman, is the first I have seen……” A soldier standing at the entrance of the North Gates marvels in a low voice, he had just wanted to take a closer look, but with a glance, he sees General Lin’s frosty cold eyes, and for a while, he did not dare to speak again.
The soldiers by the side were all sneakily laughing, to be absent-minded during General Lin’s arranged working time, and even speaking in a hushed whisper, he must be too daring, this little brat must have never seen a beauty before, here at this remote area of the North Gates, what beauty could possibly appear? Several soldiers look in the direction that the accused soldier was looking at, instantaneously emitting a breath-taking gasp together.
Lin Rui En was rather displeased, soldiers who had just left the battlefield are particularly easily distracted, and the soldiers within the Capital are even more so excessively sloppy, his facial expression stiffens, and was just about to scold them, when he sees that the soldier who was whispering just before, desperately pointing in the direction behind him, Lin Rui En did not understand, turning around, a figure of graceful demeanour enters his vision, and his heart was slightly throbbing at the sight.
She carried a sort of soothing smile, walking over somewhat anxiously, thinking he had seen wrong, Lin Rui En looks away, and then looks over again, it is indeed her, what is she doing here? In his moment of confusion, he notices that her smile did not reach her eyes, her eyes, filled with loss……
Gui Wan walks up to Lin Rui En, gracefully bowing in greeting, she faintly reveals a bitter smile, saying: “General, would you be able to help me?” Her tone filled with sincerity and because of anxiety, she appears to be incomparably fragile.
Lin Rui En froze on the spot, the meaning of her words have not yet fully sunken in, he says in astonishment “……Madam Lou……” Hearing her carry such helplessness in her tone, he begins to feel that matters are not so simple, thinking for a moment, he once again sees Gui Wan’s face reveal a trace of hopelessness and difficulty, Lin Rui En sends away all of the surrounding soldiers, leaving only two people in the corner of the city gates.
Below the city watchtowers, it is cold and windy, Gui Wan feels as though even her ears were stinging in the cold, suddenly noticing Lin Rui En turn his body, stationing himself in a way that blocked most of the wind when another gust blew over, she was a little startled, could it be that he did this on purpose? A little bit of warmth crept up on her, seeing that there were no longer any loitering people around them, Gui Wan picks out the important points to explain the situation.
Having finished listening to Gui Wan’s narrative, Lin Rui En felt rather surprised, at the same time, he noticed that Gui Wan deliberately left out many things in her story, nor did she go into details, aware that things have reached a critical state, Lin Rui En summons a soldier, ordering: “Bring over my horse.”
Hearing him say this, Gui Wan settles down a bit, as long as Lin Rui En rushes over, the situation should differ, but deep inside, she was still very nervous, she just has the feeling that something big is going to happen.
Lin Rui En quietly orders the soldier to do something, then turns back to Gui Wan, saying: “In the distance between here and Hu Guo Temple, there is the Feng Qi Slope, a natural barrier of the land, if they are to take action, it is very possible that they’d choose to do so there. I have already passed on an order, sending over the imperial guards. I’ll immediately rush over now, you can rest assured.” His voice smooth yet powerful, with the ability to calm people’s hearts.
Gui Wan lightly nods her head, because his assurance has made her feel more at ease, nodding, she lightly says: “Feng Qi Slope?” Her heart makes a sudden jump with an ominous feeling, seeing that the soldier has pulled the horse over, and Lin Rui En mounting the horse, she quickly walks forward, Gui Wan reaches out and pulls on the horse saddle, looking into Lin Rui En’s shocked eyes, she says: “General, can you take me along?”
This woman is always able to leave him stunned, seeing the haunting of concerns on her flower-like face, her knitted brows showing her unwavering determination, Lin Rui En remains silent for a moment before an inaudible sigh lightly escapes his lips, he lowers half of his body, and looks directly into Gui Wan’s eyes, gently saying: “Madam Lou, please excuse me.”
Hearing this, Gui Wan raises her head ever so slightly, looking directly into his beautiful eyes, she finds that under his indifferent demeanour, there lies implications of unreadable tides of feelings, she has yet to fully digest the meaning of his words, when her body suddenly feels light, her waist tightens, and her entire body has already been lifted onto the horse by Lin Rui En, in a moment of startlement, Gui Wan was unable to show any reaction.
One hand settling Gui Wan down in front, one hand pulling at the reins, with a firm exertion of force, the horse immediately runs forth like a shooting arrow.
Without the chance to utter a single word, the horse had already flew forward, Lin Rui En’s horse is originally the best warhorse, compared to typical horses, it is much taller, much faster, a short moment on this galloping horse, and Gui Wan’s head was feeling dizzy, compared to the bumpy ride of the horse carriage before, the warhorse is steadier, but the speed is much faster, having never ridden on a warhorse before, Gui Wan’s mind went blank, she closes her eyes, all that can be heard is the whistling of the wind by her ear, it is only the beginning of spring, and so the cold wind seeps into the collars of Gui Wan’s clothes, the chill causing her to shiver.
Noticing Gui Wan’s discomfort, Lin Rui En hesitates for a moment, and in the end slows down the horse’s speed, he suddenly hears Gui Wan say something, but the sound of the wind was too loud, blocking out her voice, Lin Rui En leans in to listen, an obviously weak voice says: “Don’t slow down……”
How could such weak body hold such strong will? Lin Rui En was puzzled, a binding hold on the reins, he holds her more tightly to his chest, clearly knowing that this is inappropriate, he continues to keep the slower speed for a moment, taking off his own cloak, he covers Gui Wan’s body with it, wrapping up her entire body, at the same time, he also covers up his restless heart.
The warhorse desperately speeds forward like a shooting star, Gui Wan’s heart finds temporary peace within the whistling wind, slowly starting to relax from her earlier alertness, only the anxiety deep inside her heart has not diminished, her hand unconsciously clutches onto Lin Rui En’s clothes, burying her face into the cloak, as her consciousness gradually blurs……
A loud sound enters her ears, awakening her from haziness, mind immediately clearing up and eyes suddenly opens, looking at the scene before her in disbelief. This is the mountain slope that lies against the mountain valley, the slope is a little steep, at this moment, half of the mountain slope is sinking in a sea of flames. Far ahead, there is actually hot air rushing forward, on the slope, soldiers and bandits were fighting amongst the mass, watching from high up, it appears that the bandits still have the upper hand. Deep inside, she came to understand, those bandits must be the phantom soldiers from the Elder Statesman’s Estate in disguise, if not, they would not be so highly skilled in martial arts and also so organised.
Empress-ah, have I still come a step too late? Gui Wan was overcome with grief, feelings of disappointment welling up.
Lin Rui En also watches this scene, completely startled, two hours of urgent rush, and they were still too late, never would he have thought, the situation would turn out like this, to think that the gentle Empress had actually caused such an extremely fierce matter to arise, no one could ever have imagined this, could it be that women’s appearance are all this deceitful? Just like the woman in his arms, clearly has a posture of a fragile willow, but is actually exceptionally strong willed.
His hold tightens, his legs clamped, saying to the already awaken Gui Wan: “Be careful.” A shout is heard, a horse’s hooves hoists up, one horse takes the lead and rushes forward, within a blink of an eye it had already charged into the ring of fire. In no hurry to engage in battle with the phantom soldiers, Lin Rui En looks all around in search for traces of the Empress and Consort Ying within this chaotic battle.
Sound of swords, sound of voices, sound of cries, all were like incantations drilling into Gui Wan’s ears, so loud it caused an endless headache, she had clearly made all mental preparations, but in face of such brutality, there is still a sense of non-acceptance. Gui Wan composes herself, paying full attention to her surroundings, within the sea of fire, she sees no signs of Consort Ying and the Empress’ figures. The hot air whisks up to her face, her chest feeling stuffy, Gui Wan was in an utmost uncomfortable position.
The phantom soldiers’ fighting method is extremely terrifying, fighting desperately regardless of their own safety, displaying an imposing manner of a life for a life. The imperial soldiers, on the other hand, were in a chaotic mess, unable to show any methodical approach, nobody cared for one another, fresh blood continuing to spill, a scene of death and injuries.
No longer able to get a clear view of the surrounding situation, Lin Rui En pulls at the horse’s reins, ready to turn back, it really is impossible to distinguish the situation at hand, nor were there any signs of the Empress and Consort Ying, he cannot continue to risk venturing around, it does not matter if it is just him, but the person in his arms is too fragile.
Just when the horse turns around, galloping away, a phantom soldier takes notice of Gui Wan’s face that was revealed from within the cloak, stunned for a moment, he loudly cries out: “Consort Ying, it’s Consort Ying, over there.” The voice was rigid with no fluctuations in tone, but it spreads far and wide, in merely a moment, a group of surrounding phantom soldiers had already gathered.
Gui Wan has never panicked so much before, her heart jumping up to her throat, hearing the person’s loud cry, she remains frozen for a long while, how could they have mistaken her for Consort Ying? Her thoughts makes a turn, these phantom soldiers have never seen Consort Ying before, now they have wrongly recognised her as Consort Ying, but at a time like this, she cannot just open her mouth to refute their claims, no one would even listen, her heart tightly shrinks, the pain of her body and the pain of her heart strikes together, unconsciously her hand clutches, turns out she clutched onto clothes carrying warmth, she raises her head to take a look, a look of indifference, distinctive lines of his side profile meets her eyes, slightly easing her heart, she tightly clutches onto his clothes, hoping that in doing so, it will give her courage and strength.
Sensing Gui Wan’s tension and panic, Lin Rui En lightly frowns, he did not bring his broadsword on his way here, now it is too late to regret it, his right hand reaches for his waist, a silver light flashes by, and his hand has already met with the handle of a soft-edged sword, with the rotating of his wrist, a silver light can be seen, the crowd had yet to react, when four phantom soldiers had immediately fallen in front of the horse. Gui Wan looks over attentively, the wounds caused by the soft sword were extremely fine, even the blood could not flow out smoothly, only revealing a single line of red. Deep inside, she was rendered in absolute shock.
It is very difficult to describe the situation that had just happened, a look of indifference remains settled on the handsome young general’s face, silver lights flashing from his hands, the light hitting wherever he directed it, opening up a path, some people could not even catch a glimpse of the weapon in his hand clearly, and have already fallen, with the unpredictability of the changes, he displays moves of powerful and unconstrained style, an appearance like that of frost, pieced together with the fiercely unparalleled swordsmanship, seems to be very abnormally deceptive, amongst all those present, not one was not alarmed.
The phantom soldiers were starting to panic, one of them who appears to be the leader, notices that Lin Rui En is only using one hand, it is very clear that he is protecting the woman on the horse, loudly swallowing down his panic, he makes a few hand gestures, to outflank them from the left, their target - Gui Wan.
Lin Rui En suddenly feels a little strained, his left side was growing unbearable, more and more phantom soldiers were surrounding them, taking Gui Wan into consideration, there is no way to break out of this, his brows were deeply knitted together, and his hand increases in strength, from his hand, a silver light flashes before them, suddenly creating the feeling of a screen splitting open, Gui Wan was blinded for a moment, and using this chance, Lin Rui En kicks at the stirrup of the horse, charging away.
Just when they had almost escaped, it was but a split of moment, when the horse was suddenly hit by surprise, bolting ahead in a mad rush, Lin Rui En tightly pulls at the reins, only by lowering his head, did he find that the horse’s leg had been hit by an arrow, it was too late to care for the horse, he tightens his grip on the reins, and the sword in hand suddenly halts. The phantom soldiers takes the opportunity to close in, all blades directed towards Gui Wan’s body, Lin Rui En tightly holds Gui Wan in his embrace, he moves to the side, and his blade lands upon the horse’s body, struck by the pain, the horse wildly jumps around in chaos, completely out of control, it runs around like crazy.
Gui Wan holds her breath, tightly clutching onto Lin Rui En, her brain could no longer keep up, only able to let the clashing of swords wave around before her eyes, she suffers a shortness of breath, her life hanging by a thread.
In a blink of an eye, the horse is bolting towards the bottomless valley of the mountain slope, galloping up to this point, even Lin Rui En could not help but to show a change of expression, he wanted to turn back, but the phantom soldiers were closely approaching, there is no way they could back away any further, the horse is far beyond uncontrollable. Lin Rui En takes a deep breath, wanting to make a turn back, a blade light flashes from the left, turning around now, Gui Wan will definitely be injured, sighing out loud, he dodges the fatal blade, the horse’s hooves raises, treading into the emptiness of the cliff.
Lin Rui En holds Gui Wan in a tight embrace, two people, one horse, had not even the time to scream, when they had already fallen into the deep valley……
In the evening, at a pavilion ten li from Feng Qi slope, a group of imperial guards has set up camp, a jade-like figure stands tall and straight in the pavilion, casually flipping through the booklet in his hand, he appears elegantly casual and free, with a smile like that of spring breeze in March hanging on his face.
A shadow hurriedly enters the pavilion, one knee kneeling down, breaking out into a report: “Prime Minister, the situation at Feng Qi Slope is coming to an end. Fire arrows have been prepared, discharge will be launched on command.”
Lou Che gently smiles, “The mistresses of the back palace have not been frightened right?” His voice sounding lazy, as though he did not really care.
The soldiers does not even raise his head, answering with utmost respect: “They have not been frightened, and are resting two li away from this place.”
“What about the Empress?” Lou Che quietly asks.
The soldier momentarily pauses, not knowing exactly how he should answer, he opens his mouth with an expression of great difficulty: “The Empress has already been put under General Lei’s watch.”
Lou Che smiles, his eyes looking in the direction towards Feng Qi Slope, even when watching from afar, he can still faintly see the glowing of the fire flames.
Seeing his smile, the soldier was baffled, the man before him, who makes people feel as though they’re sitting in the warm spring breeze, just exactly what kind of person is he? Suddenly leading imperial guards to intercept the Empress and Consort Ying early this morning, placing the Empress under light detainment, clearly aware of the phantom soldiers waiting ahead, yet still let a group of palace maids and eunuchs to act as decoys, sending them to their deaths, no wonder why there is none who dares to make an enemy out of him amongst the entire imperial court.
“If no errors have occured, then just go ahead with the plan. After some time has passed, release the arrows, and completely annihilate the rebel party.” Such refined voice and tone breaks through the soldier’s disorderly thoughts.
The soldier nods his head and was just about to accept the orders and withdraw, when he suddenly thinks of a certain matter, but does not know whether to speak of it. Upon seeing this, Lou Che asks: “What’s wrong? Are there other matters?”
The soldier’s face stiffens, answering: “Just now at Feng Qi Slope, a strange matter has occured.”
“Strange matter?” Hearing this, Lou Che lets out a quiet little laugh, appearing to be rather curious, “What strange matter?”
“Just now, a man and a woman broke into Feng Qi Slope, and were besieged by the rebel party.”
Lou Che continues to smile, musingly asking: “What kind of people were they, why were they besieged?”
“The rebel party mistook the woman as Consort Ying.” The soldier answers with utmost honesty.
Eyebrows slightly knitting together, Lou Che murmurs: “Mistaken for Consort Ying?” Who exactly is this person?
The solider hears Lou Che’s lowly spoken words, and appears to understand his thoughts, directly following on: “The people present says that, that woman’s beauty is like that of the heavenly deities, it is no less than that of Consort Ying.” At first the soldier had thought that this was yet another scheme of Prime Minister Lou, but later realised that this does not seem to be the case. The soldier raises his head ever so slightly, and sees Prime Minister Lou’s face like that of the gentle spring breeze make a sudden change.
“What does that woman look like? Are there any specific characteristics?” Panic evidently laced around his voice, an ominous feeling suddenly shooting up his heart.
Secretly thinking, beauty like that of heavenly deities is a specific characteristic, is it not? Unfortunately, such words cannot be announced from his mouth, suddenly thinking of something, the soldier answers: “That woman wears a silver ribbon on her head.”
Lou Che immediately freezes on the spot, his heart throbbing in pain, speaking up, he asks: “How is she? Is she injured?” His voice losing its usual calm, and levelness.
The solider was beyond astonished, never, has he ever seen Prime Minister Lou like this before, not knowing how he should speak up, he could only speak of the facts: “That man and woman has already fallen down the valley.” Dead or alive unknown - these four words sat at the tip of his tongue, thoroughly held back and swallowed back down, having been a soldier for so many years, he had long known how to sense the mood, the mood surrounding Prime Minister Lou in front of him was getting worse and worse, in face of such drastic changes, anymore words, and he’s afraid the words ‘dead or alive unknown’ will become his own situation.
His heart grows increasingly painful, like an inexplicable sense of panic caging him in. For a while, Lou Che did not know how to react. Suddenly shooting up from his seat, he raises his voice: “To Feng Qi Slope, everyone to Feng Qi Slope. You must find me the woman who fell down the cliff. Bring her back to me completely unharmed.” Having said that, he leaves with long strides, his face completely overcome with gloominess. A loud voice orders, “Immediately prepare the horse.”
The soldier was dumbfounded, hastily following after him, asking: “What about the matter concerning the rebel party?”
Turning his head to coldly stare at the soldier, his voice sounds as though it has frozen into ice: “Find Gui Wan first!” Footsteps endlessly marches out. Thinking of Gui Wan being sieged by the rebel party, falling into the mountain valley, makes his heart feel as though flames of fury were surging out from his chest. He will definitely not spare those people.
The frostiness in his voice did not reduce when he faces the soldier again and adds: “Kill every last one of the rebel party.”
Head really hurts, like that of million needles pricking the body and spreading into the mind from all four limbs. Her eyelids slowly raises, and the scene of vibrant spring enters the eyes, a faint touch of green, a thin layer of spring in the air, creating the feeling of nature naturally seeping into the one’s heart and lungs, is this place the mountain valley? Gui Wan wonders, her eyes looking all around the place, searching for any trace of Lin Rui En.
Having looked around a good few times, there were still no signs of Lin Rui En’s figure in sight, Gui Wan started to panic a little, propping her body up with one hand, she was overcome with a wave of dizziness, her hands and feet giving away, and she could not even stand up, with no strength anywhere, she could only rest against a rock, slowly adjust her breathing, she closes her eyes, calming her flustered heart.
“Have you awakened?” Such icy cold voice carries a trace of not easily detectable concern, travelling into Gui Wan’s ears.
Turning her head, she sees Lin Rui En walking towards her, once she takes a good look at the other person, Gui Wan could not hold back her laughter, his clothes, most likely because of when they fell off the mountain slope, were in complete tatters, the usually cold general wearing such clothes, just shows an indescribable strangeness and degradation.
Noticing Lin Rui En’s face show a change of colour, Gui Wan gathers up her smile, stilly looking at him.
His face revealing an expression of great difficulty, Lin Rui En single-handedly places horse meat on top of a large rock, and sits himself down, facing Gui Wan, he indifferently says: “You’ve slept for a day, I have circled this place to look around……” Suddenly coming to a halt, his brows knitting together, looking as though he does not know how to word it, “……according to the current situation, we cannot climb back up.”
Hearing this, Gui Wan shows a dejected face, thinking back to how she couldn’t even stand up just now, her heart jolts, asking: “Why could I not stand up just now, could it be, when we fell down the valley, I injured myself?” Thinking up to there, no matter how carefree she can be, she could no longer laugh out loud.
Understanding her thoughts, Lin Rui En reveals a comforting smile, bringing out the shallow lines besides his lips, his somewhat icy face suddenly softens up quite a bit, “No need to worry, you have only lightly bruised yourself from the fall, with the addition of lying here for a day, your blood circulation is not as smooth, but after a while, you’ll feel better.”
His voice naturally has the sort of ability that convinces others, Gui Wan rubs her arms, slowly sitting herself up, indeed, she is feeling much better than before, a lot of her strength have already been restored, her heart finally settles down, and she raises her head to look at Lin Rui En, who was gathering the firewood together, stacking it up, he seems to be planning to roast the horse meat, all of a sudden, Gui Wan’s face makes a change, slightly raising her voice, she asks in surprise: “Why are you not using your left arm?”
Lin Rui En uses his right hand to stack up the firewood, hearing Gui Wan’s words, his movements does not falter, only calmly saying “When falling down, I received a light injury.” His tone ever so calm and unaffected.
As if she’d be deceived by him so easily, Gui Wan secretly thought, if she had not seen the faint trace of dark red stain on his left sleeve, she too would have believed it is just a light injury, thinking back to when they were falling down, it was him who tightly covered for her, a sense of guilt fills her heart. Right now, she finally understands, the reason why they cannot climb back up the mountain valley.
Noticing that Gui Wan is no longer speaking, Lin Rui En focuses on stacking up the firewood, planning to roast the horse meat to eat, this is originally the warhorse that had accompanied him throughout the battlefields, now it is actually being used to feed them……just thinking about it, he turns his head, making direct contact with Gui Wan’s eyes which were carrying feelings of concern. Lin Rui En was a little startled, he was thinking too deep, to actually not be able to notice her closing in, in his moment of puzzlement, a pair of the most beautiful hands he had seen, lightly touches his left hand, originally wanting to avoid it, but not knowing why, in the end, he did not move the slightest bit as he stands there, allowing her to pull up his left sleeve.
Pulling up Lin Rui En’s sleeve, Gui Wan’s eyebrows deeply wrinkles, his left arm had a cut that opened up approximately half a foot of the arm, in the deepest area of the wound, one could even see the bone, a layer of ointment can be seen on top of it, the blood has also been stopped, but the horrible appearance of the wound was still able to startle her, deep inside, she felt that this wound, she may also need to bear half of the responsibility.
Raising her head to reveal a smile, Gui Wan quietly asks: “This wound, will it heal?”
Hearing the sincerity of her worries and remorse in her voice, Lin Rui En pulls down his sleeve, covering up that hideous wound, brightly speaking: “The bones have already been connected, nothing serious, it’ll be good after two days of recovery once I get back.”
Abruptly opening her eyes wide, Gui Wan looks at him as though she does not dare to believe it, a broken bone, and he is actually able to speak of it with such ease. Thinking for a moment, she walks up to the firewood and takes out two flat wood from the stack. Under the stunned eyes of Lin Rui En, she clips his arm between the pieces of wood. Lin Rui En was hit with the realisation, she is trying make a retainer for his left arm, in order to prevent the bone from misaligning. His heart is hit with a slight throb, as though warmth is slowly flowing out, spreading throughout his entire body.
Noting that there is no strips of cloth to bind the two pieces of wood together, Gui Wan was bit troubled, General Lin’s clothes were already in tatters, she cannot rip his up, nor can she rip through her own clothes either. Her thoughts takes a turn, and she reaches up to untie the silver ribbon that she had been wearing this entire time.
A faint light flashes from the silver, and her head of silky black hair falls down instantly. Lin Rui En felt as though his own heart slid down along with it, as though captivated, his movable right hand reaches out, lightly skimming through a few strands that descended towards the front, all of sudden, because his left arm feels the clamping force of the firewood, a faint yet lingering pain could be felt, in his surprise, his right hand immediately withdraws, his heart uncontrollably pounding.
Unable to detect anything unusual, Gui Wan finishes tying up, her face displaying a pleased smile, and her hand casually reaches up to gather her loose hair, from the corner of her eyes, she catches a glimpse of the mountain valley, which actually happens to have a small pond, upon seeing this, her heart jumps in joy, and she quickly hurries over to it. Lin Rui En sees this, and was rather puzzled, thinking of the weak state her body is in, he was just about to call out to her, when he sees that she is only kneeling down beside the pond, looking into the mirror-like water, she combs through her long locks, tidying up her appearance, Lin Rui En was rendered speechless for a moment, unable to hold back, he lets out a faint laughter.
Turning back to continue stacking the firewood, he places the horse meat on top of the stack, opening up a lighter and starts a fire. Remembering that Gui Wan had slept an entire day without eating anything, he turns around, wanting to call out to her, yet in that short moment, he was unable to utter a word.
Because the mountain valley is of a special terrain, the temperature is able to preserve a strong sense of spring better, the scenery as beautiful as poems and paintings, however such beautiful scenery, standing next to her, can only become a shadow in contrast. Rosa Chinesis (Chinese rose) grows from the clear water, an ornament engraved by nature, her rouge and powder does not stick to her face, even more so revealing her peerless elegance.
Falling into deep thoughts, he involuntarily thinks back to when he had first seen her, because he was hunting down the Nu’s Prince, he had to conceal himself in Lai Fu Restaurant, just when they were eating, a youngster suddenly joined their table, it was the first time he had seen such a pretty young man, his actions graceful and carefree, just one casual movement from “his” body would appear to carry a unique charm.
This alone was not enough to confuse him so much, but during that short meeting, that smile had indeed managed to move him, having been in battlefields for countless years, he had never seen such clear, carefree smile, so seeing “him” with a face of embarrassment and distress because of having no money to pay up, his heart softens up, thus helping “him” resolve the problem. He had originally thought that this was but one matter, but three days later, he actually happened upon another chance encounter with “him”, opening the door, that peerlessly pretty young man shows up with a wide smile, the him that was standing by the door was truly confused. Finding out that ‘he’ is actually a woman, he involuntarily felt somewhat happy.
The third time seeing her, he had once again received another shock, she is actually Prime Minister Lou’s wife. Seeing her step out from within the horse carriage with such graceful bearing, his feelings at the time were so complex that even he did not know how to decipher it……
“What are you thinking about?” A voice like that of a bird song enters his ears, awakening him from his deep thoughts, he looks over towards Gui Wan, who had already plaited her hair into one long braid, elegant and natural, looking like a nymph that had come out from within the mountains.
Noticing that she appears to be in very high spirits since they fell down the mountain valley, such that when compared to the panic and helplessness from before, when they were rushing to Feng Qi Slope, there is a huge difference of worlds apart, she appears to be no longer troubled by the major happenings that are happening in the outside world. Secretly amazed, he could no longer hold back from asking: “Are you not worried?” Having said that, he immediately regrets it, now that she is finally in high spirits, how could he have just remind her of the unhappy matters, and now that he wants to compensate for this, he does not even know what to say.
Looking slightly dejected, she makes a turn and heartily smiles, “There’s no longer anything for me to worry about. The matter has already reached a foregone conclusion, has it not?” Her smile, although brilliantly bright, faintly reveals a sense of loss.
Lin Rui En lightly nods his head, not knowing what to say at that moment, he suddenly smells the scent of horse meat, and changes the subject: “Looks like the horse meat is almost done.”
Not long after, the horse meat has been nicely roasted.
The horse meat was rough, difficult to eat, this just may be the worst meal Gui Wan has eaten in her life, but in her starving state, she simply could not refuse to taste it, and insisted on swallowing it down. Lin Rui En sees her discomfort in eating, and his heart could not bear it, speaking up: “Just wait for two more days, and we’ll be able to return.”
“One day.” Not minding the doubts in Lin Rui En’s eyes, Gui Wan confidently states, “Within a day, the people above will come here to find us.” In that moment of eye contact, such confident smile shone splendidly on the person.
Lin Rui En says nothing, his eyes inadvertently sweeps around the surrounding area, this valley floor that makes people forget the social customs, actually allowed feelings of yearning to sprout from within him.
Gui Wan eats the horse meat, eating without tasting, her face beaming, a smile gracing upon it, with downcast eyes, she covers up the underlying sense of loss and melancholy, and from her peripheral vision, she glances over the valley, feeling somewhat frustrated, such refined and natural scenery, even she had given sprout to feelings of attachment to this place.
Unfortunately, in the world above, there are too many events that are awaiting her.
On Feng Qi Slope, the imperial guards were constantly busy with the task in hand, one soldier was running around as he gave out commands, besides him, another soldier suddenly speaks up in interception: “Vice-Captain, is it possible to give the soldiers a rest, it has already been an entire day and night, our fellow brothers are all tired.”
The soldier addressed as Vice-Captain shows a face of reluctance, he could not help but to look towards the left where the high slope was, without even making a move, he turns his head to answer: “No resting. Have you not seen Prime Minister Lou’s face, do none of you want to live anymore?” Thinking back to how reporting back to the Prime Minister yesterday has resulted in this, he secretly lets out a sigh. Ever since he realised that the one who fell down the valley was Madam Lou, Prime Minister Lou immediately entered a state of icy wrath, and as time goes on, he is looking worse and worse.
The reporting soldier also feels an infinite amount of mixed feelings, quietly speaking of his complaints: “This huge fire at Feng Qi Slope has been fuelled for longer than a day before it was finally extinguished, even the skies have already darkened now, there’s just no way for us to go down in search for people.”
Hearing this, the vice-captain also lets out a sigh, saying: “There’s no other choice, if we really can’t find the person, we can only be afraid that……” The following words just couldn’t be spoken out loud, just thinking of it would give one the chills.
The soldier was helpless, glancing over towards the area the prime minister stands, an inexplicable chill running up his spine, he suddenly turns his head back and says: “Oh yeah, what do we do about that youth?” His voice low, revealing a hint of weariness.
The vice-captain raises his brows, the thought of the youth who rushed here by horse, during late noon yesterday, brought upon a headache. Ever since the prime minister notified his residence of the matter regarding Madam Lou’s fall down the mountain valley, at noon, a young man came rushing in by horse, just when he had dismounted from the horse, the horse because of being overworked, dropped dead, thinking back to that scene, he can still vividly picture it in front of him.
A youth like that, anyone who sees him would not be able to forget him, they say he is the prime minister’s star pupil, a man of talent, what is even more rare is his characteristic quality, like that of pure water, he truly is a delicately handsome young man ah! Being a soldier for so many years, only in these past two days did he manage to see the most outstanding characters. Yesterday, he was even wondering, could it be that all the outstanding characters have all gathered within the Lou Estate?
Someone like that approachable yet handsome youth, no one would dislike right? Once he had arrived, he was extremely anxious, as though there was some kind of painful suffering haunting him, hence him insisting on heading to the bottom of the valley. Clearly a frail scholar, who would dare to let him take such dangerous risk, not to mention that Feng Qi Slope yesterday was still engulfed in flames, and then the most bizarre thing happened, that youth appears to have transformed into stone as he stands on the mountain slope all night, eating nothing, drinking nothing, saying nothing, seeing him again this morning, he looks like a completely different person from yesterday.
Seeing him yesterday, he was a youth with incomparable purity, such handsomeness had even slightly crossed the boundaries of gender, but the him today, with hair that’s long been blown into a mess by the wind, his face a little haggard, the crystal clear eyes of yesterday were now filled with deep and heavy feelings, with an added touch of ice-like chilliness. Has the youth turned into a man overnight? Can one night really change someone this much?
“Vice-Captain, that youth is truly frightening, he was not like this yesterday.” A solider speaks up in helplessness, “He’s already not eaten anything for an entire day and night, should we send something over to him?”
The vice-captain nods his head, then again, shakes it, saying: “Leave it to me.” He takes hold of the bamboo basket from the soldier’s hand, and walks towards the slope edge on the right, he had yet to reach the youth, when the youth turns his head to him, asking: “Can we head down the valley yet?” Just a day before, he still had a clear and crisp voice, today, it already changed into a tone of frost-like cold.
Shaking his head, the vice-captain was just about hand over the food, but sees the youth turn away without a single glance at it, just continuing to stare down the valley, letting out an exasperated sigh inside, the vice-captain observes the youth, originally wanting to make a move, when he suddenly thought that any persuasion is of no use right now, and so he keeps his mouth shut.
The youth’s hair is swept up by the mountain-side wind, one half of his face has stiffened up overnight, his eyes because of his fixed determination appears indomitable, deep and unfathomable, his finely chiselled facial features lost its water-like clearness and purity, but has instead gained an indescribable touch of emotionlessness and stubbornness, one overnight change has revealed a different type of sinister handsomeness to him, making others unable to look away.
This is Feng Qi Slope, standing here, one can have the entire mountain valley reflected in their eyes, the skies have long darkened, only a vast scene of black can be seen, like looking down a bottomless black hole, unable to see anything, he stands still, for a long long time, exactly how long has it been?
The winds were very strong, like bursts of roaring by the ear, all other sound can no longer be heard. She is down there, at the bottom of the valley, did anything happen to her? Once he thinks of such things, his heart would suffer great pain, as though he’s lost a piece of it, a truly unforgettable pain, paining him to such extent, he can no longer think, only able to stand aside, helpless as he absently stares down the deep valley……
That day, he first met her, it was also a dark night like this……
The performance troupe was heading into the imperial palace to deliver an opera performance, the troupe leader was extremely excited, saying how Kun Yuan Performance Troupe will be the number one troupe from hereon, everyone within the troupe were exceptionally happy, only him, only he was unable to integrate into the happiness.
He was born in a declining scholarly family, living in poverty since young, perhaps it is because of the influence of his father, he has no desires nor demands by nature, and everyone praises his generous and pure temperament, but who would have thought that he is also as deep as water inside, clear and transparent, selfless, anyone can be reflected on the water surface, but once the person leaves, their traces will also disappear, all along, he has been searching, what is it he himself wants? Exactly who will be able to leave a lasting impression in his heart?
The imperial banquet has started, he hides away in a far off location, finding a peaceful place to read his book, who would have thought, he would actually witness the most taboo scene within the palace grounds, he waits for them to leave, when he had just thought the trouble have left afar, he encounters her. Within the darkness, he could not see her face, it was only her clear, indifferent, yet carefree voice that he had taken a little liking to.
Are you willing to leave the performance troupe and come with me?
She has spoken of the matter he had wanted to do most, at that time, he had long grew weary of the environment within the performance troupe, and have already decided to apply for the imperial examinations, perhaps being a government official will be extremely interesting, that is what he thought at that time.
His future suddenly turned bright, yet his mind still remains unperturbed, he was not exactly overjoyed, only naively accepting, a change of environment, could perhaps help him find something precious, he has always believed in this.
The woman who changed his fate is called Gui Wan, everyone says she is a great beauty, at the very beginning, he did not notice this, he had only really liked listening to her voice, so clear, so light, carrying irresistible grace that moves the hearts of others, having grown accustomed to hearing it, he actually longs to hear it again, to be able to hear this kind of voice every day, is perhaps a delightful thing, when did it begin, her voice has hooked onto his heart.
Only when thinking back to the scene of her in the plum forest, does he truly understand the meaning of beauty, the spring air splendid, her laugh like the spring breeze, vague joy moving the hearts of others; summer woods lush green, she is quiet like rainstone, elegant and graceful; autumn leaves quietly worries, she is lonely like the night moon, luminous and intoxicating; winter snow looking bleak, she is proud like plum blossoms, delightfully shining.
That night, he wanders amongst the plum forest again……
Since when, was the lingering fragrance of plum wine in his nose, difficult to forget?
Since when, was his brush strokes of feelings, his reciting of Spring Thoughts, difficult to give up?
Since when, was the constant rippling of his heart like a water mirror, difficult to calm down?
He originally had no desires nor demands, but after meeting her, he had actually formed some sort of sentimental attachment, such that he himself finds difficult to understand. She often asked, if he does not have confidence in himself, how is he to enter officialdom? At the bottom of his heart, he seems to have a vague answer that he is almost certain with, yet not just once, not just twice, but three times, he has repeatedly ignored it. Exactly what is it? He does not understand, nor does he really want to understand.
The heavens are punishing him now, him letting her go back then, led to the news of her falling down the valley, dead or alive unknown. The moment he heard the news, he was pretty much already dead, his heart pained to the point that it no longer beats, and only then did he come to realise, his mirror-like heart that is as clear as water, could actually feel pain……
Never wanting to experience that heart-breaking pain again……he silently stares down towards the bottom of the valley, waiting, as time goes on, his heart becomes increasingly determined. Nineteen years, and this is the first time he felt like this, he must be growing increasingly greedy, originally only wanting to hear her voice, gradually wanting to admire her beauty, and later wanting to be the one by her side……how much he wants to have her……
He wants to laugh, wants to let out a big hearty laugh, he has found his own thing to hold onto, his precious, such bright and clean heart is no longer empty from hereon; he also wants to cry, wants to pour out his heart in tears, turns out he did not know, love is such a sour taste, such unspeakable anguish……
“We’ve found her, we’ve found Madam Lou……” The sound of voices suddenly travels into his ear, awakening him from his chaotic mind-set of such crazy desires, his feet uncontrollably heads towards the voices, his long been numbed legs, gradually speeds up with every step, escalating into a jog, within the mingling of voices, he can hear the sound of his own heartbeat, strong, steady, his heart is beating again, he can feel his own heart beat again……
He has found it, found something he wants to treasure……
What he wants is……
“We’ve found her, we’ve found Madam Lou……” Soldiers hurriedly rushes uphill from the valley, shouting at the top of their lungs, voices of joy instantaneously spreading throughout the whole of Feng Qi Slope.
Hearing this, Lou Che’s face finally loosens up, first overjoyed, then immediately worried, with another change, showing a slight sense of outrage……his expression goes through three changes at once, his emotions unstable, without waiting for all the other soldiers to become aware, he had already sprinted out in flying style, directly heading towards the edge of the valley cliff.
The skies has only just dimly lit up, a commotion rises at the edge of the valley, having found Madam Lou, all the soldiers present could feel sincere happiness flowing out from within, they have not slept for two days, finally, they can get some rest……seeing Prime Minister Lou disorderly rush over, everyone knew to make way for him.
The one who had just been rescued from below, sits at the edge of the valley cliff, and for the first time, he sees Gui Wan appear in such a sorry state, her clothes in a somewhat worn-out mess, her complexion pale, his heart throbs in pain, as though needles were pricking him all over his body. His face appears gloomy, originally planning to give her a round of merciless scolding, but seeing the state she is currently in, the pent up fury filling his chest could only come out in form of a long sigh, lowering his body to gather her in his arms, pulling her into his embrace, he gently asks: “Are you hurt?”
This one phrase, with such simplicity, was actually overflowing with incredible warmth. Not knowing why, it just sounds like water in general, just one drip, would drip into the depths of Gui Wan’s heart, spreading all over her, with a face of complexity, heart wringing in pain, she had yet to react when she sees Lou Che painfully, dearly, reaching out to gently wipe her face, and only then did she realise, the tears were already spilling out from her eyes.
One drop, two drops……the tears continues to fall, even she does not know why she is crying, is this the fear of standing between life and death? Is it the powerlessness, the helplessness of sorrows? Or is it……
Seeing her silent tears, another round of throbbing shakes his heart, he reaches up to wipe her tears, wanting to help her wipe away her sorrows and fear, but when his hand reached out, he could feel the pain and burning sensation on his hand, those tears, were really heavy……
Lightly holding her, not caring about the surprised eyes surrounding him, Lou Che could feel a burst of rattling in his heart. Just about to lift her up and turn around, he suddenly notices that by the valley cliff, one soldier is carrying another person on his back, could that be the man that fell down the valley with Gui Wan? Watching as he gets rescued, he glances over, a flash of faint silver greets the eyes, his injured arm appears to be tied up with Gui Wan’s hair ribbon, gazing for a long while, he catches a glimpse of the man’s face, and freezes on the spot, is that not Lin Rui En?
Meeting Lin Rui En’s eyes, holding a fair amount of indifference, this person stands on the same power level as he, unfortunately he is often outside, and the two people have never socialised with one another, his thoughts makes a turn, a little shocked as to why he and Gui Wan would be together. Unfortunately this is not the time to pursue the matter, Lou Che calmly speaks: “General Lin, is your injury serious?”
A face like frost shows no signs of change, only responding with a few light nods, “It’s nothing.” Unconsciously, his eyes wanders over to the slender figure, seeing her turn her head upon hearing their voices, her face actually overflowing with tears, he immediately freezes, and his expression falters.
“General Lin,” Gui Wan gently breaks away from Lou Che’s embrace, feeling a little embarassed by her tears just now, she courteously smiles towards Lin Rui En as she speaks: “Thank you for your life-saving grace.”
He unknowingly nods again, shocked by her tears, he could not possibly look away.
“General Lin.” Lou Che’s cold voice interrupts his gaze, Lin Rui En looks into his motionless eyes.
Lou Che pauses for a moment before finally opening his mouth, more or less unwilling, but is still grateful no matter what: “General Lin, you have saved my wife, and for that I am most grateful. From henceforth……if there is anything you need help in, just speak up, I owe you one.”
Lin Rui En does not answer, and stands there, expressionless, as though those words has nothing to do with him whatsoever, a group of physicians who have long been on standby, rushes up at this moment, one after the other, surrounding Lin Rui En, inspecting his injury, treating his wound.
Towards his lack of response, Lou Che did not get annoyed, Lin Rui En is known for his indifference, he himself has already made a promise, and so doesn’t care whether he accepts it or not. Feeling the cool breeze blowing in over the valley, he hurried pulls Gui Wan in front of him, she had fallen down the valley, and now that it is early morning, the weather is cold, he is afraid that her body will feel unwell, wrapping his arm around her, he turns around to head back to camp.
Only when they turned around, did they realise a young man was standing behind them, seeing him, Lou Che and Gui Wan were equally stunned.
Since Gui Wan has been saved from the valley, she has remained a blank state, completely absentminded, particularly because she had just cried her eyes out, it feels as though she had cried away many things, her heart feeling empty, and her movements stiff like that of a wooden puppet, having hovered over the boundaries of life and death, it feels as though she has been cut off from the outside world for an entire generation, the moment she turned her head to see the youth, she was immediately startled awake, could it be that an entire generation has really passed by?
How did the youth go through such a huge change? Coldly standing amongst the wind, the wind lifts his messy hair, an entanglement of silk threads, the delicately pretty face has actually become somewhat stiff, his expression desolate, with an indefinable depression, his clear eyes appears very deep in this moment, seemingly bottomless at glance, his face has long lost its former water-like smile, as he stands there with no expression whatsoever, his entire being, reveals an overflowing quality of determination.
Surprised by his sudden change, Gui Wan dumbly asks: “Xiu Wen……what’s happened to you?”
Upon being called by that light and clear voice, Guan Xiu Wen feels a burst of joy well up from within, he has already stood there for so long, watching her tears fall, her blank state, her absentmindedness, he got the full view of it, but she did not notice him, he waits, finally waited till she gently calls out to him.
Within a flash, a voice like that of breaking ice seems to have been heard, Gui Wan widens her eyes, watching that youth reveal that approachable smile of his, like that of clear water, the fierceness from before appears to have been an illusion, the youth is still that same youth, he has not changed, sighing in relief, Gui Wan’s mind was put at ease, the Guan Xiu Wen just now sure gives people quite the scare.
The youth joyfully laughs, laughing from deep inside his heart, taking a step forward, he gently asks: “Are you okay? Not hurt?” Waiting till Gui Wan specifically shakes her head twice, his heart settles down, he says nothing and just faintly smiles as he gazes at Gui Wan with some sort of complex implications.
The one who was truly shocked, is Lou Che. The moment he saw this youth, he felt a certain kind of odd sensation. This youth’s state of mind has gone through a huge transformation, only then could he have become so eerily strange, so terrifying. His body carries blade-like fierceness, his eyes holding an additional sharp and focused quality, he notices that when looking at Gui Wan, his eyes reflects a sense of dreaminess in them, excessively deep, an unpleasant sensation washes over him, his heart, holds an additional trace of agitation, and he speaks up: “Guan Xiu Wen, you should be tired too, go take a rest.” Having said that, he ditches everyone else and walks Gui Wan back to camp, at the same time, ordering a physician to enter the tent to treat Gui Wan.
Seeing that they have far left, Guan Xiu Wen’s smile that was still ever so clear just now, suddenly drops, standing in the wind, coldly, silently, watching that lingering figure, his heart filled with mixed feelings, such that cannot be even more deeply felt than just now, he needs power, needs wealth, need position, all of sudden, he is filled with an infinite amount of wants.
He wants to have power that can compete with Lou Che……to be able to get close to him……
On top of Feng Qi Slope, there is yet another hectic scene. The soldiers were taking care of several trivial situations, the physicians endlessly walking in and out of the tents, countless soldiers rests above the valley, and one youth stands amongst the wind, undisturbed and lonely……
The skies were beginning to brighten up, unfortunately no one raised their heads, no one realised, the skies had already long been raging on, like a storm……
“How’s the situation?” A voice like light breeze seeming a little worried, Lou Che stands in front of the tent, consulting with the physician beside him.
“Madam’s qi and blood have weakened, and has also received a fright,” The physician looks at the powerful yet young prime minister before him, feeling a little aimless and panicky, having been a physician in the palace for so many years, he has never seen him make such an obvious show of emotions before, in a humble tone, he says, “Madam’s health condition is nothing serious, just need to spend a good amount of time to recuperate, and all shall be fine.”
His wrinkled brows loosens up, Lou Che lightly nods his head, “Go prepare the prescription.” He makes a sudden turn, lifting the tent’s curtain, and walks in.
The inside of the tent was filled with complete silence, with not even the slightest noise, nerve-soothing aroma wafts into his nose as he takes serious steps to the table side, lifting the lid of the censer, and stubbing out the incense inside. Lou Che turns around, his eyes steadily settling on the bed in the middle of the tent, a layer of sheep wool blanket is spread across the bed, and in that moment, the image of the slim figure, sinking into deep sleep, lying there with her black hair sprawled across the snow-white blanket, carries the appearance of a slightly pale beauty in a morbid state.
He walks up to the bedside and lightly sits down, gently pulling up the wool blanket, pulling it up to Gui Wan’s neck, tightly covering her up, suddenly, the blanket in hand makes a move, his eyes looks up, just happening to meet eyes with Gui Wan’s flickering ones. Slowly opening her eyes, those translucent black pupils like that of stars, appears deep.
“Lord Husband……” Gui Wan softly calls out, her mind still in a daze.
Lou Che looks at Gui Wan, but does not answer, his face showing no expression, seeing that she wants to sit up, he takes a pillow, and cushions it against her back.
Seeing his lack of expression, Gui Wan comes to a realisation, asking: “Lord Husband, are you mad at me?” Having just sat up straight, her head felt as though it was spinning, and she leans back against the embroidered pillow.
A mind filled with unspeakable complications, Lou Che displays a face of a slightly cold front, upon noticing Gui Wan’s physical discomfort, his heart felt inexplicable distress, and he could no longer hold back a light scolding: “Do you not want your life? Why must you have come here?” So close, and she would have passed away at the bottom of the valley.
Gui Wan meekly smiles, “I wanted to come in prevention, but only when I got here, did I realise how useless I am.” Such faint voice carries such heavy feelings of lamentation and grief.
To hear such sorrowful words, was not something Lou Che had expected, the originally harsh words he wanted to say, could no longer bear to leave his mouth, seeing this woman, whom he has been protecting and doting on in every possible way, to actually do something so dangerous, has made him experience more than enough worries in his lifetime. He wants to reprimand her, but in a mood where he cannot bear to do so, he could only let out a light sigh, helplessly asking her: “Gui Wan, why do you care for the Empress’ matter this much?”
Gui Wan smiles after thinking for a long while, at the moment when Lou Che had thought she would not answer him, she leisurely speaks up: “Then why does Lord Husband care for the Empress’ matter this much?”
Lou Che was speechless, getting the feeling that he should not say it, but seeing Gui Wan’s slightly pale complexion, he says: “It is not that I am deliberately opposing the Empress, everything that happened today were the results of her own doings.” After saying such heavy words, his tone softens down again, “Gui Wan, you do not need to concern yourself with this matter any further, I will take care of it.” His hand reaches up to run through her long locks, and then helps her pull up the blanket, afraid that the chilliness on Feng Qi Slope would make her ill on top of her injury.
“Cannot not care……” In Lou Che’s rather surprised eyes, Gui Wan softly speaks up.
Lou Che lifts his brows, his heart receiving an endless amount of shock, not waiting for him to speak, Gui Wan continues: “Lord Husband, can you listen to a story of mine?”
Knowing that, for her to tell a story at this precise moment, it must be of utmost importance, Lou Che says nothing, and silently waits.
Gui Wan’s eyes looks away, her attention focused on the censer on the table, as she slowly speaks: “My mother, was a famous beauty twenty years ago, free and easy-going by nature, and also rather bold and vigorous……”
Lou Che was slightly startled, remembering that at the time they got married, Gui Wan’s father had just resigned from his government position, leaving with clean hands (uncorrupted), without even attending his daughter’s wedding. As for her mother, he has only heard that she passed away a few years ago. Not understanding why she would choose to speak of her personal life at this precise moment, he wonders, could it be that there’s a certain revelation within this? Attentively watching her reveal an appearance of hazily drifting away, he carefully listens on.
“When mother was young, she once loved a failed scholar (fail as in failed in the imperial examinations). Not caring for her family’s opposition, she married him, and even gave birth to a daughter. However, the two of them did not live a happy life together, and mother later left that man, marrying my father.” A few simple sentences, outlined the life of one woman, yet deep inside it leaves only a bleak taste. Hearing up to this point, Lou Che’s brows slowly knits together, somewhat able to guess the implications behind this story.
Gui Wan takes a little pause, flashing a wry smile as she speaks again: “At home, I have never seen mother be truly happy before, she would always be filled with worries, rarely cracking a smile. She really doted on me, could be said to be excessively favoured, but towards older brother, she would not even look at him. Contrarily, father liked older brother, disliked me……mother was in a very poor physical condition, when I was fourteen years old, she had already fallen gravely ill. Although father went looking everywhere in seek of medical attention, she was still beyond curable. Before mother died, she really wanted to see the forsaken daughter she had left for over a decade. She told me, she has given her doting love for that daughter to me in double, hoping that I’d be able to give these feelings to that un-fateful older sister in future.” Speaking up to here, Gui Wan pauses for a long while, seeming to no longer plan on speaking any further.
Lou Che freezes, the answer seems to have already came out, he asks in confirmation: “You’re older sister……”
Gui Wan turns her head, steadily looking at Lou Che, and softly says: “Have you not already guessed it? The Empress is the person I need to return the love to.” Within such joyously carefree eyes, there holds assertiveness.
A moment of silence falls upon the inside of the tent, Lou Che did not know how to respond, and could only look at Gui Wan, her face exposing an expression of thoughtfulness.
Gui Wan flashes a soft smile, her hand reaches up to gather her hair, asking in a seemingly relaxed manner: “Lord Husband……what to do?”
Lou Che looks at her in slight puzzlement, an ominous feeling washes over him, causing him to feel a little troubled, and in this moment, he could not utter a single word.
“What are we to do……?” Gui Wan laughingly says, some sort of mournful feeling wells up inside of her, “I need to protect the Empress, you need to protect Consort Ying, perhaps our stances will become antagonistic……”
“It wouldn’t.” A decisive judgement cuts off her speculations, Lou Che authoritatively says, “This is originally not a problem between us.” His heart is troubled, bursting with troubles. Never has he ever thought, he would hear the word “antagonistic” come out from her mouth, making him feel as though his heart suddenly sank.
“Gui Wan, the one opposing the Empress is not me, and is in fact, the one who is named monarch of the country, his majesty the Emperor, you got that?” Lou Che explains, with emotions of indefinable panic mingled into his words.
Gui Wan lets out a little laugh, showing her state of loss, she quietly says: “Without Consort Ying, would his majesty do this?”
Lou Che says nothing, the answer to this question is too obvious, giving him no room to turn the situation around.
Time passes by in minutes and seconds, yet inside this tent, there seems to be the feeling of frozen time, one could faintly feel a kind of oppressive air intensely pass off.
“Gui Wan……” Lou Che’s lips part, only to lightly call out her name, his voice gentle but low.
Hearing this, Gui Wan could not help but to gently quiver, feeling a burst of severity, yet her face continues to carry a smile, “Lord Husband has once promised me, you would satisfy everything I want……I have always believed this. But, what if it’s an interest that affects Consort Ying, would Lord Husband continue to stand by my side?”
The dreariness will soon suffocate him, the air so heavy, it can seemingly crush people. Lou Che does not speak, his face sombre, his thoughts undecipherable. Gui Wan lightly sighs, feeling tremendously tired, paining her head, paining her feelings, also, paining her heart……suddenly her entire body digs out from the wool blanket, she extends her hands, and in Lou Che’s moment of surprise, she has hooked onto Lou Che’s neck. With unlimited amount of charm and gentleness, she leans her head onto Lou Che’s shoulder, three thousand black hair like silk threads, scatters down Lou Che’s chest, thread after thread, strand after strand, “Husband……”
Frozen on the spot, he had almost forgotten to breath. Gui Wan never takes the initiative to get close to another, but in this moment, a faint fragrance rushes up his nose, lingering on his body, his pounding heart bursts, and his hand unconsciously strokes the black silk-like hair. He was surprised that he actually could not calm his heartbeat, wanting to greedily enjoy this charming moment. Gui Wan’s intoxicating voice gently rings through his ear: “Thinking that one day, if we were to take antagonistic stand against one another, how emotionally and spiritually broken I will be ah……” Her voice was sweet, hooking onto his heart, yet it was impossible to conceal her helpless lamenting.
Lou Che could feel his neck area get a little humid, a little warm, droplets of water rolls into his collar. Such heat, seeming as though it will burn him, a strange and bitter feeling spreads out, leaving his heart to restlessly sink down……
Gui Wan withdraws her hands, leaning backwards, hence instantaneously leaving Lou Che’s embrace as she leans against the embroidered pillow, facing Lou Che rather absentmindedly.
The fragrance suddenly disappears, the warmth no longer there, in a moment of shock, he wanted to reach out to grab, but was only able to hold onto a few strands of hair. Lou Che looks at Gui Wan, startled, but all he saw were her deep eyes like stars, holding hidden tears, he sees himself, but her focus was set elsewhere. Her lips like that of half a plum blossom, carrying a hint of a smile that cannot be seen, beautiful yet greatly desolate.
His heart feels empty, slightly aching, he extends his hands, grabbing onto the person in front of him, and strongly pulls her into his arms, “Gui Wan……we will not turn against one another.”
Sensing that the person in his arms uneasily wants to retreat, he hooks onto her waist, holding her even tighter, his heart was in chaos, and he mutters: “Gui Wan……what am I to do with you?”
What am I to do with you?
In heaven’s recording of the second year in spring, the case of “Hu Guo Temple” has reached its end. The annihilation of three hundred people in the rebel party, has been identified, this matter has very extensive implications, the Elder Statesman was also said to be involved. The Emperor was furious, many officials who were under the Elder Statesman’s Estate were demoted. Originally thought that the Empress would be deposed, but unexpectedly, a group of senior officials simultaneously stepped forward in plea, deeply expressing the Empress’ innocence, and so the Empress’ title was saved, the back palace has also restored its peace.
In a blink of an eye, it was already late spring, and the national imperial examinations has begun. The “Hu Guo Temple” matter did not affect the examination, everything went along as planned.
The common people of the Capital were particularly excited this year, the only reason being, the First Ranked Scholar of today is extraordinarily handsome, young and talented, having quite a similar bearing to that of Prime Minister Lou back then, they say that he is the student of none other than Prime Minister Lou himself, all of a sudden, the imperial court and the entire Capital was bustling, conversation topics all turning to this.
This year, topping the list of the imperial examination is the one named, Guan Xiu Wen, at this time, no one knew, the arrival of this youth, will bring upon trials and hardships to the entire city.
 The actual phrase used for a deceitful appearance is biǎo lǐ bù yī / 表里不一 which literally means, the outer appearance and the inner character does not match up, it can also translate to two-faced but that sounds a bit too harsh in this context.
 A powerful and unconstrained style - the actual phrase used here wastiān mǎ xíng kōng /天马行空 which literally translates to a heavenly steed soaring across the skies.
 Lǐ / 里 is a measuring unit for distance, it’s approximately half a kilometre
 Disorderly thoughts is a very simplified translation for hú sī luàn xiǎng /胡思乱想 which literally translates to [making] rash thoughts, thinking all over the place.
 Unforgettable pain - kè gǔ míng xīn / 刻骨铭心 - which literally translates to, engraved on the bones, imprinted on the heart, it is used to describe the pain in this context, but the keyword is unforgettable, the phrase refers to something that has been engraved in your heart and soul, thus making it impossible to forget. Generally speaking, it is a phrase used to express eternal gratitude.
 The actual phrase that was used here was liang xiù qīng fēng /两袖清风which literally translates to both sleeves swaying with every gentle breeze, emphasising the emptiness of these sleeves - which you should know were also used as pockets back then - and although the phrase can be used to refer to poor people, it is also a phrase used to describe an honest official who is free from corruption and bribery.
 When speaking of trials and hardships, Chinese people usual refers to this as wind and rain or fēng yǔ / 风雨. A phrase that’s most often used for this, would only require the doubling up of both characters - us Chinese and our love for using four character phrases haha - fēng fēng yǔ yǔ / 风风雨雨
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