Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol01 Ch10
The insects had long gone into hibernation for it already was a winter’s night. A curved moon hung in the sky, emitting a cold, pale light.
She huffed while walking towards the underground dungeon.
Due to her keen observation for the last few days, she noticed that breaking through the security was relatively easy. While Pingting walked, she saw a couple of maids, who waved and then scurried off.
Around the artificial mountain and bamboo she went, arriving at the entrance of the underground dungeon.
The warden had seen someone approaching in the distance but he was surprised to see that it was Pingting. He greeted her with a smile.
“Why has Miss Yangfeng decide to pay us a visit? Wow, it sure is cold today.”
“I lost a hairpin, just have to look for it”
“A hairpin?” The warden hesitated, “Couldn’t you have left it in your room?”
“I’ve looked, but it’s not in there. I think it’s more likely that I lost it in the dungeon.” Pingting lowered her voice, “I only got it from Duke this morning and I’ve only used it once. How am I supposed to explain to Duke tomorrow morning? Please, please help me look for it”
“That’s…” The warden looked undecided. “This dungeon is an important place, it is usually prohibited to enter.”
“Didn’t I go in this morning?”
The warden’s mouth tightened into a thin line but he pretended to be cheerful. “Miss, aren’t you bending my values here? If Duke asks…”
Pingting took her argument no further, instead pretended to be elegant. “Then could you please go in and have a look for me? Look carefully on the ground and on the stage. I’ll wait here.” She immediately started coughing, pretending to be sick from the cold.
The north wind was piercing. Even the warden had been cold, but now hearing Pingting’s cough unnerved him. “Miss, please go back. When I find it, I shall personally deliver it to you.”
“No, no, waiting is better. Cough, cough, cough…cough…I…cough…my chest feels humid, my forehead feels like it’s on fire, but I don’t feel cold.”
Her words made a startling impact on the dungeon keeper.
The dungeon keeper knew that the Duke adored this girl. For her sickness, he had chosen the famous doctor, Chen Guangzhi, to look after her. It was very likely that she would be his future, official wife, their Duchess. If she got sick outside his dungeon, then…
After weighing his options, the dungeon head said, through gritted teeth, “On other thoughts, you can come in. It’s slightly warmer in there. It’ll be more convincing if you look for it yourself too, Miss.”
He opened the big dungeon door, let Pingting in and gingerly closed the door behind her.
At the other end of the once pitch-black room, there lay Dongzhuo.
He didn’t feel cold. The dried blood that covered his body felt like a thousand infernos. It clung to his body, even the slightest movement could tear open his wounds.
He rested again the wall, trying to save as much strength as possible.
The sound of the dungeon door carefully being opened broke the silence. A ray of light entered.
Dongzhuo’s eyes flickered in response.
“Dongzhuo?” Pingting appeared at the door, holding a flaming torch.
Dongzhuo’s mouth twitched into a smile, forcing a hint of his usual mischievous demeanour. “I was waiting for you.”
He stood up, his wounds on his legs threatened to give in.
Pingting’s face flashed towards him, smiling, and the chains rattled.
After his binds had been taken off, Dongzhuo asked, “What happened to the people outside?”
“Down.” Pingting rolled her crystal black eyes. “I didn’t even use the sleeping gas bomb.”
“You mean the formula that almost forced the entire Residence of Jing-An to sleep?”
Pingting lifted the corners of her mouth smugly. “Follow me.”
They left the dungeon, the warden and his three guards lay on the ground outside. Both of them had been to too many wars and they efficiently changed into the residential guards’ clothes without a word. Pingting knew the place too well and led the way to the stables.
The sky had yet to brighten and the stable boy was still fast asleep.
Dongzhuo chose two of the best horses. One for Pingting, the other for himself.
“Looks like Chu Beijie isn’t back yet, thank God.” Pingting looked up at the sky. “At this time, Mr Zhang will be guarding the back door. He isn’t very strong, so go easy on him.”
After they had knocked out Mr Zhang, out the little back door they went. Just like that, they had escaped from the Zhen-Bei Ducal Residence, without too much trouble.
They smiled at each other, no need for celebration.
Besides, the further they went, the safer.
Soon, they had left the city walls, galloping past the fields of yellow grass and nectarine trees.
Thinking that they had already left the danger behind, they slowed down a little.
Both of them were tired, so they chose a spot and sat down to have a rest.
Dongzhuo lowered his head, deep in thought. He couldn’t help but ask, “It might be better to ask this question in the future, but… Pingting, how did you end up in Chu Beijie’s residence?”
The smile on Pingting’s face faltered for a second, but it was quickly replaced by the normal expression. “Come closer. Let me tell you.”
Dongzhuo leaned closer to her and Pingting whispered into his ear. What he heard made his face change and after she had finished, she jerked his head upwards to stare at Pingting.
Pingting kept her face neutral, “What?”
“So that’s the story…”
“Anyways, back to the point.” Pingting said, “The residence lost a criminal. Chu Beijie will definitely send soldiers to pursue us. One of us needs to divert the soldiers’ attention, the other needs to go back to Master.”
“Pingting, I think we should give up.”
Her face went cold, “How can we possibly just give up now? I’ll go east and you go west. Go.”
He didn’t reply, so Pingting pushed him onto a horse and whipped it. She watched the horse slowly disappear into the distance.
“Pingting can finally see you again, Master.” She checked that Dongzhuo really had disappeared, before heading to her destination.
Pingting had been right, it was going to snow soon. In the early morning, the sun briefly showed its face before darting back into the clouds and very soon, grey clouds began to cover the sky.
Pingting, who was still on horse, knew that the clouds overhead were gathering.
“Ah, that’s a big snowflake.” She reached out, picking out a snowflake in midair. She watched it melt on her frozen, red hand and this brought a child-like smile onto her face.
She hadn’t seen such good snow for a long time.
For the last couple of years, her master always called out to her around this time. “Hurry! Time to admire the snow, don’t forget the qin, remember to bring the qin.”
Though Master is in hiding, he should be happy with this snow too, right?
She wasn’t riding that fast, but was casually appreciating the spiralling white scenery. She’d already taken off the white fox coat off the horse and had draped it over herself.
Chu Beijie had given her that coat recently. It seemed that it was a specialty of Dong Lin. It really was nice to wear, for it seemed that not the slightest bit of wind could penetrate through. As she had expected there to be snow, she had come well-prepared.
“When there is trouble, there are heroes; when there are heroes, there are beautiful women; surviving the turmoil, surviving the turmoil…”
Though it was cold, Pingting was in a good mood and amidst the beautiful scenery, she had begun to sing.
Her mind was occupied and despite the smile on her face, there was an unmistakable trace of confusion.
But her voice was as gentle as ever.
“If there are soldiers, there will be fame; if there is fame, there will be fraud; soldiers know fraud, soldiers know fraud…”
She suddenly thought of Chu Beijie.
Her face suddenly went red, as if she had just brushed blusher on her cheeks.
That person, that man. Pingting stopped singing, softly sighing. No word could even describe him.
It snowed heavily for the next three days, while she continued to ride East.
Three days later, the snow stopped. She had already reached the outskirts of Dong Lin. She stopped at a place exactly a day away from Gui Le.
The earth was white.
Pingting stopped and asked a passer-by for the first time.
“Excuse me Sir, do you know where Three-Swallow Cliff is?”
“Straight ahead. Can you see that strip of land where those sheep are grazing on? Go through there and at the fork, go right. You’ll get there in about half a day by horse.” The old man was holding preserved foods for the winter. He looked up, “It’s so cold, yet you still have to go?”
“Yep!” She thanked the old man, then mumbled, “Sheep on a strip of land…”
It was right ahead.
She thought of her master’s smile and wondered how he would react when he saw her.
She couldn’t suppress the joy in her heart; she pushed the horse to go a little faster.
Arriving at the thin strip of grass, she saw that her path was a valley wide enough for three horses to pass through simultaneously, but the sky up ahead was still a relatively thin gap.
Grey-white light shone through the gap.
Pingting stopped at the entrance.
The wind that came from the valley was bitter, bone-piercingly cold. The cold matched the sound of crunching gravel.
The air was like a morbid omen.
“Pursuers…” Pingting’s delicate mouth sighed, as if to feel the danger. Pingting suddenly jerked her horse and whipped it, hard.
The little black horse seemed to have also felt the danger. It reared up, before bounding into the valley.
Then came their eerie predators.
They could hear the rumbling of hooves behind them. Figures suddenly appeared, like demons arising from the earth.
Pursuing soldiers, pursuing soldiers!
The Duke of Zhen-Bei’s soldiers were here!
It was like they were trying to overpower the white earth.
They were getting closer and closer, it was almost deafening. It was difficult not to imagine that murderous intent in the air, with soldiers and their swords flashing in silver light.
Pingting didn’t look back, just galloped forward.
Something roared within her, but it was immediately replaced by dismay.
“Yangfeng!” Came the rich voice, sweet to her ears.
Chu Beijie was here.
Her slender body trembled, but Pingting pretended not to hear, she continued to gallop forward.
Faster, faster! The wind whipped against her face, it hurts.
“Bai Pingting!” The same voice, except this time it was adorned with anger.
Pingting was shaking.
She knew this person’s sweet voice very well.
He said that they will never be apart.
He said that when spring came, he would personally pick a flower for her every day.
But now he was angry, like the lions, who sought blood.
All she could picture was a battlefield. When a powerful army strikes to defeat an enemy, the blood thirsty cry like demons commanding a massacre.
The hooves seemed to get closer, as if they were right behind her.
She tried her best to speed up by using the whip again.
But before the whip had actually gone down, someone had already pulled the whip out of her hands and had wrapped his arms around her waist, as if trying to prove some point.
“Ah!” She exclaimed as she fell into an embrace that smelled of gunpowder.
Opening her eyes, she saw a pair of very dangerous looking black pupils.
“You sure ran away far.” He used one hand to guide the horse, the other to hold his captive. Chu Beijie forced a smile, “Look at you, so disobedient, escaping this far.”
Despite knowing the danger, Pingting had to ask him something. “When did you realize I was Bai Pingting?”
“All right, not too late.” He peered down at her, as if calculating her.
Slender neck, white hands, delicate face.
Her eyes were too calm. She certainly didn’t know what real torture was, nor did she know how dangerous the angry Duke of Zhen-Bei was like.
How am I going to punish her?
“Where’s Dongzhuo?” she gave up struggling because she knew that it was impossible to escape from his arms.
“Ran away. Don’t worry, I’ll capture him soon and then you’ll be able to have a happy reunion.” Chu Beijie coldly replied, “Three-Swallow Cliff, was it?”
Pingting began to chuckle.
Chu Beijie sweetened his voice, “I’m more afraid of you crying though. Your tears totally break my heart.”
Pingting stopped laughing. “Duke must have pretty reliable sources.”
“You were suspicious of my identity from the start. You caught someone from the Jing-An Ducal Residence to test me”
“You could be right. If you let me kill that brat, then I wouldn’t have been suspicious of you anymore.”
“Duke pretended to go away on purpose, but you secretly followed us after I had rescued him. You did this to find Master’s location.”
Chu Beijie looked at her bemused. “An army has already gathered at Three-Swallow Cliff, so your stalling techniques are useless.”
“Duke’s embrace is always the warmest.” Pingting seemed to have given up, she had closed her eyes and was obediently pressing into Chu Beijie. “If Duke is so strong, how come you didn’t catch Dongzhuo?”
Pingting’s voice must have made Chu Beijie think of something else, as he shouted, “Retreat! Retreat out of this place!”
Pingting smiled tenderly, “Too late.”
Everyone’s face looked dumb-stricken.
They had yet to understand, when they heard shouts overhead. They looked up, seeing many bows and arrows pointing at them from both sides.
With this many arrows, even the most skilled would have difficulty escaping.
“It’s an ambush!”
“Ah! The people of the Jing-An Ducal Residence!”
“Damn it! Run! Ah….”
The crowd roared as many tried to escape with their horses, but the unforgiving arrows still penetrated right through their stomachs.
They kept screaming, as did people falling off their horse.
The horses neighed as the blood splattered everywhere.
The arrows only came for the ones who tried to escape. Some of the people on the cliff shouted, “Those who surrender will not be killed! Those who surrender will not be killed!”
It was pretty obvious that the victor had been decided already.
Chu Beijie knew that he had been too careless and this would leave a lasting stain on his profile. He raised his hand and shouted, “Stop moving. Everyone dismount and hold onto your horse.”
He repeated his command twice more and his soldiers had calmed down. As expected, they dismounted and they had all gathered around him. His army wielded swords of all kinds, their blade flashing in the light.
He looked down and saw a pair of cunning eyes.
“So you deliberately chose a place to leave that brat, and those whisperings were actually your plan to trap me.”
“You flatter me, Duke. That place was quite difficult to find and making Dongzhuo disappear from your spies took me a lot of thought.”
Her slow journey through the snow was also a ploy to give Dongzhuo enough time to report back to her master. Fortunately she read a lot and had recently read about this valley on the outskirts of Dong Lin. It had helped with her planning.
Chu Beijie thought about what she said. “Unfortunately, you miscalculated one thing.”
“If you hadn’t miscalculated, why did you end up in my hands?” After a while, he added, “If a thousand arrows head for me, although I won’t live for long, I doubt you would.”
Pingting raised an eyebrow and in a light voice she said, “I sold you. So does it matter whether I accompany you to death or not?”
Chu Beijie’s sharp eyes rested on her hair, threatening to pierce through her skull. “It was a rhetorical question, besides, I doubt you want to die.”
Pingting answered, “Duke is such a hero, so of course you wouldn’t like to die useless? Actually, I don’t exactly want Duke’s death, but you have to promise one thing. One thing and those bows and arrows will disappear, without hurting anyone.
“It’s simple, for the next five years, Dong Lin’s soldiers cannot enter nor fight Gui Le.”
Chu Beijie lowered his voice, “Only the King can make decisions on battles.”
“Duke is the brother of the King and you are also the best general, so you must have some influence right? Gui Le gets five years of peace in exchange for Duke’s life, I think that’s fair.” She bit her lip and lowered her voice too, “If you live, I live. If you die, I can only accompany you to death.”
Chu Beijie realized that he was holding onto a very cunning woman, yet his heart refused to give in.
Gentle, he could still remember her lingering touch.
She could be gentle, but underneath was immeasurable deception, trickery.
Chu Beijie gritted his teeth, the veins in his neck were emphasized.
He had never been manipulated by anyone.
This was an absolutely unforgivable insult.
Pingting didn’t realise Chu Beijie’s anger.
Her heart tangled up at the sight of Chu Beijie’s face.
She could no longer tolerate his oppressive gaze, so she softly urged, “Duke, you must make your decision now.”
His thoughts were blank.
“Ha, ha, hahahaha!” Chu Beijie tossed his head back and laughed, his spectators wondering if he had gone crazy. He stared angrily at Pingting, his eyes full of hatred. “Do as you wish.”
Pulling out his most important sword that hung from his waist, he threw it towards the ground, the force strong enough to light a fire.
“I, Dong Lin’s Duke of Zhen-Bei, Chu Beijie, swear on my royal blood that for the next five years, no Dong Lin soldier will set foot on Gui Le territory. I leave this sword to you, as a token of my promise.”
His resentful voice echoed in the valley, like a deep sorrowful lament at the end of time. His voice was clear and loud. As soon as Chu Beijie said this, a figure appeared at the top of the cliff, peering down but smiling. “The Duke of Zhen-Bei is a true gentleman. I, He Xia, believe you will keep your promise and on behalf of all those peasants who do not wish to fight, I would like to thank you.
There he was, the Marquess of Jing-An, graceful but not showy, wearing clothes as white as the snow. He was the very person that the King of Gui Le wanted to kill most at the moment.
Pingting saw her master and couldn’t help but exclaim “Master!” in delight.
He Xia turned towards her and nodded. “Pingting, you did well, I……” his words were caught in his throat, as if it was too private to talk about. He turned to Chu Beijie, “Please let go of my maid. Now that the deal has been made, the Duke of Zhen-Bei, you may leave. We will not attack you.”
Chu Beijie didn’t say a word, just glanced down at Pingting.
Letting go, he helped her off the horse. It was a simple action, but Chu Beijie could not stop himself from holding onto her tighter and tighter.
This extremely slim woman, who was as poisonous as snakes and scorpions and would manipulate him without a second thought. She should be his enemy, one that he should quickly kill.
Yet he was almost clutching onto her.
Don’t want to… let go.
Her warm body, her slender fingertips and her delicate face was frozen from the cold.
His fingers brushed against her lips.
Like he used to.
He had gotten used to listening her play the qin, used to listening her joke about the weather, used to her lazing on the bed all night while he read his documents.
If only he had known her true origin, he could have prevented this from happening and live with her in peace.
His happiness only took him into a trap.
What he thought he had captured suddenly grew wings and flew away, back to her master.
Yet he could not stand the thought of letting her go.
He was used to holding her, hugging her, kissing her. Kissing her…
His hatred was extreme, his love thinning out.
He was used to……
Between earth and heaven, this woman must be the most evil and the most hated person ever, yet between earth and heaven, she was also the softest, the gentlest.
And he struggled to catch this extraordinary woman.
Chu Beijie shut his eyes, thinking, preserving.
“Duke, please let go of my maid,” Came the faint voice of He Xia.
Chu Beijie seemed to fall the cloud of the past back into reality. He looked down, she was still there, staring at him with her bright eyes.
“Duke, please let me dismount,” she whispered.
Chu Beijie wasn’t sure that he heard her correctly.
Dismount? Where are you going?
You lied to me, why should I just let you go because you say so?
In this entire world, I only want you, only you.
My hatred is strong yet my love is deep. I want your body and mind; there is no escape.
Chu Beijie frostily replied, “I only promised Gui Le five years of peace, I did not promise to give you up.”
Pingting shook her head and said, “My country’s soldiers haven’t retreated yet. It’s not looking too good for you, Duke.”
“As expected of He Xia’s female military advisor.” Chu Beijie’s lips were drawn tight, but then he smiled, “What do you think will happen if I kill you here and now?”
Pingting wasn’t afraid at all, she sweetly laughed instead, “Pingting will die with Duke on the same day and at the same time.”
“Wrong.” Chu Beijie relaxed, before saying, “He Xia won’t allow anyone to shoot me. He will let me leave here safely, so long I promise to uphold my promise of peace.”
Uncertainty flicked on Pingting’s face, though it was instantaneously back to normal. It however, did not escape Chu Beijie’s sharp eyes.
Chu Beijie exclaimed, “You are He Xia’s personal maid, yet you don’t know that he is a famous general? What is famous, you say; it is distinguishing what’s important and what’s not. The life of Bai Pingting is insignificant in comparison to five years of peace.”
Pingting hesitated for a while, before sadly saying, “Duke, do you really hate me that much?”
Chu Beijie gazed at her with a profound expression, not saying a word.
Pingting gave a wan smile. “Fine. Kill me.”
As soon as she said this, her feet landed on the ground with a soft thud. Then she looked up, seeing the man so familiar yet imposing.
“This is your final chance.” Chu Beijie sighed, “Get on the horse with me and say good bye to He Xia. From then on, you will no longer be called Bai Pingting, you will be Chu.”
His words jolted through Pingting, because despite the treachery she had done, he had still left her a chance. How could I not feel grateful?
His crystal eyes stared into hers, whispering of their overwhelming love.
The Zhen-Bei Ducal Residence’s guqin.
The flower had disappeared, to a place no one knew.
I am the soul that meanders through the snow-white plains, you are the world’s sharpest blade. Between us, lies a mountain of hatred and betrayal.
High mountains, surrounded by snow. You cannot see me, I cannot see you.
A wrenching heart, never ceasing.
Pingting gazed into the distance where she could see He Xia waiting. She bit her lip hard, took a step backwards before saying, “Please leave Duke, Pingting cannot send you off.”
Chu Beijie’s face was expressionless, drained of warmth. He nodded.
“Well, well, well…….” He said then coldly added, “One day, I’ll let you know what excruciating heartache is.” With that, he turned away, bringing his whip down hard on his horse.
The horse cried loudly before rushing out, leaving a cloud of dust behind.
A lonely figure heading towards the setting sun.
- East & West (10): Dong Lin literally means “east forest”. So when Pingting and Dongzhuo escape from Dong Lin, they go west. Dong Lin lies to the west of Gui Le.