Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol01 Ch23
He Xia came in from the arched entrance of the outside garden. He’d seen the sitting Pingting from a distance away, through an open window amongst the fresh flowers.
She was thin, so pathetically thin. Her face was so haggard, no longer like the always laughing maid in the Jing-An Ducal Residence, so gaunt that it was heartbreaking to see.
He Xia pushed the bead curtain away, quietly stepping into the room. In the last few days, he had been waiting for Pingting to wake up, by her side, until he felt shy when the physician said she’d wake up soon, two days ago.
He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to bear Pingting’s expression when she woke up. After some hesitation, he decided to leave the room when she was most likely to wake up.
Although it was something he didn’t want to do, there was no escape.
“Pingting…” He Xia called in a soft voice, approaching cautiously.
His smart and intelligent maid was before him but she was like a jade carving, no soul just body. Where was the delicate gem with the warm fragrance of a beauty? Where was the warmth in this corpse of the one who’d once leaned on him intimately, rode the horse with him, and admired stunning views with him? He Xia couldn’t help reaching out, wanting to touch her.
“Don’t touch me.” Her voice chilled his heart and the words seemed to be spat out through her teeth.
His fingertips stopped at the last moment, hovering in midair, as if they couldn’t go any closer. Pingting looked at him in the eyes, but it was like she didn’t see anything at the same time.
That gentle, sly, smart, curious girl was gone. He Xia could only see her freezing coldness, as well as a little puzzlement and distress.
He Xia lowered his hands. “Pingting, you’ve changed,” he said, his eyes downcast.
“Pingting is no longer the Pingting from the past.” Pingting smiled a little sadly, asking faintly, “Is Master the same Master from the past?”
He Xia faced her, studying Pingting carefully. The past was gone, swept away from the ends of the Earth in a moment’s time.
He sighed, full of mixed feelings. In a gentle voice he said, “Do you remember when we were children? I’d calligraph, while you’d grind ink. I’d sword dance, while you played qin. You’d follow me wherever I went, refusing to leave. When we grew up, whenever I went on an expedition, you always followed. At least half of my fame as being the Marquess of Jing-An is all thanks to you and your planning. If we could go back to the past, that’d be awesome.”
“The past?” Pingting seemed to have lost in thought for a moment, but then her eyes frosted once more. “That’s right, when we made that drug, you were the one who told me that it could poison young children, but it isn’t fair to them, so it should only be used as an anaesthetic, not to kill.” Her voice was faint.
He Xia shuddered, so angry that even his voice started to quiver, replying coolly, “The Jing-An Ducal Residence still existed then and my parents hadn’t been killed by spies yet.”
Blood-red lightning seemed to tear her sky apart.
Pingting lost her voice, stood up abruptly, but feel back onto the bed as her knees buckled.
“The House of Jing-An has done so much for Gui Le and had already decided to give up everything to lead a peaceful life in the mountains. Who knew that He Su’s spies were ordered to kill us at all costs. It’s my fault in a way for splitting the group in two, and leaving my parents to the other group. He Su, if I, He Xia, isn’t going to avenge for them, then I’m not human!” He gritted his teeth, his black pupils turned back to Pingting. In a soft voice, he said, “My parents are now gone and as I don’t have any siblings, you’re the only dearest person left to me.”
Pingting was startled.
The Duke of Jing-An was gone…
The Duchess was gone…
The benefactors who’d helped her for the last eighteen years were gone. Without them, wouldn’t she have become a little pile of bones outside the city, due to hunger and cold, long ago?
Could she really not be angry about what had happened to the House of Jing-An?
If so, then she should be able to forgive the new Gui Le King, He Su, who ungratefully plotted to burn his officials to death, causing her to end up in Dong Lin, meet Gui Le’s worst enemy, Chu Beijie, who wrenched her heart to no end.
Her thoughts drifted a thousand miles and settled on the now scorched earth of the original Jing-An Ducal Residence. There, the loving Duchess first held her chubby hand while taking her to He Xia, who was looking down at his calligraphy. She laughed, “Look, what a likeable baby girl. Being left near the entrance probably means that you’re fated to be with the Jing-An Ducal Residence. Xia’er, do you know what fate is?”
He Xia put down his pen, only laughing when he saw Pingting. “Don’t move, just stand here. I’ll draw for you, it’s going to be pretty.”
One stroke later, she became He Xia’s personal maid, study buddy, playmate, military advisor and for a while, she almost became one of his concubines.
“Duke, Master taught me how to hold a pen.”
“Duchess said that I’m better at qin than Master.”
“If you don’t properly study the Art of War like I said, I’m going to tell Duchess.”
The gentle sounds of laughter went, completely disappearing.
She reached out, but the fragments of the past dissolved through her fingertips. They couldn’t stay.
There was no turning back. If she wasn’t He Xia’s maid, then how could there have been such a plan, causing Chu Beijie to be completely ambushed, forcing him to have a five year peace treaty with Gui Le?
If Chu Beijie hadn’t sworn peace on behalf of the Dong Lin Royal House, then He Su would never be able to send troops to persecute them without worry, and perhaps, even the Duke of Jing-An would have never been ambushed by the King’s troops?
The events interlocked, causes and effects.
Thinking that much, Pingting’s chest felt hollow. She even lost her strength to be angry and in a depressed voice, she said, “It’s understandable that Master hates He Su, but why plot with the King of Bei Mo to kill two of Dong Lin’s princes? Say, if Dong Lin were able to resolve matters quickly, then Bei Mo will have to deal with the calamity afterwards.”
He Xia looked at Pingting pityingly, sighing, “No matter what Bei Mo’s future is, I’d do anything to keep you by my side, Pingting.”
Pingting stiffened, slowly gazing back at He Xia, smiling. “Master isn’t suspecting that my loyalties are leaning towards Chu Beijie right? Otherwise Pingting wouldn’t have left at her own accord back then, after forcing Chu Beijie into a treaty, to assure the group’s location was safe.”
“It isn’t the same as back then, can Pingting still go back to Chu Beijie side?” He Xia looked away, asking in a deep voice. “Can Chu Beijie still believe in Pingting’s words?”
Pingting wasn’t shaking as much as He Xia had predicted. She only asked, “The Duke and Duchess are now gone, what is Master planning to do now?”
“Take you away. We’ll live deep in the mountains and I’ll be nicer to you than ever before.”
Pingting’s crystal-black eyes stared at He Xia. For some reason, her energy came back to her and she slowly got up, eyeing He Xia as she walked closer, as if trying to commit every inch of him to memory. She looked into He Xia’s bottomless pupils, her face not far from his. Pingting stressed every symbol, “Can Pingting still believe in Master’s words?” Her mouth lifted slightly to a dark smile as she turned around, lowering her voice, “Ever since the day I left, Pingting no longer had any connections to the House of Jing-An. Mr He, please leave.”
The room was eerily quiet.
After a few barely-restrained, but still heavy-sounding breaths, she heard some heavy footsteps behind her.
The bead curtain shook. He Xia was gone.
Pingting had lost all of her energy, collapsing on the chair.
Apart from the wife of the Main General’s and his child who were strangely worried, the rest of the servants in the residence were very happy.
The frontier was no longer at war and Dong Lin’s army was gone. The Main General was amazing after all, worthy of being the tree-like protector of Bei Mo.
General Ze Yin’s Residence, its people were all delighted as the Bei Mo King had sent a series of large gifts. Everyone knew that this was just a mere trifle. The King was waiting for Ze Yin to finish with the matters at the frontier and return to Bei Yali, to give him the real reward.
Yangfeng look bored at the gifts of gold, silver and lavish jewels in the small living room. She had had been worried about Pingting, who had been in bed for so long, but surprisingly she had become increasingly strong over the last few days. She drank all her medicine and ate food on time, nor was she crying. Yangfeng was much relieved that Pingting seemed to be steadily getting better.
More good news came in. A messenger from Kanbu reported the Ze Yin would return to Bei Yali soon.
Yangfeng clutched onto Ze Yin’s letter, her heart thumping madly. She wondered what Ze Yin’s reaction would be when she saw her belly, how happy he’d be. At least half of her worries instantly dissolved and she took off to the kitchen, making a few of her best dishes. She took them to Pingting’s room.
“Why are you up?” Yangfeng put down the steaming dishes on the table and rushed to help her up. “I told you not to worry, you have to recover from your illness little by little. Ze Yin will be back in two days. I wrote to him, begging to get him to buy some good ginseng and bear bile on the way back.”
Pingting shook her head. “I’ve rested plenty for the last few days, it’s time for me to go.”
Yangfeng was stunned, “Pingting, right now, you’re…” She sighed, lowering her voice. “How can I not worry?”
“There’s too much attention here, I can’t stay too long.” Pingting held Yangfeng’s hand in hers, also lowering her voice. “We’re sisters, you know everything on how I ended up here. I’m going to leave you some words, don’t forget them.”
Yangfeng’s heart sank as she nodded, “Tell me.”
“The political situation is changing and the four countries will be in a mess than ever before. The Main General has just achieved something amazing, so it’s a good time to retire. And,” Pingting hesitated, before sighing, “Be careful around the Marquess of Jing-An.”
“The Marquess of Jing-An?”
“He’s not the He Xia we knew.”
The two both thought of the deceased young princes of Dong Lin at the same time and were silent.
Yangfeng looked at the cooling dishes out of the corner of her eye, only feeling a heavy feeling in her heart. Revealing sad expression, she said, “Are you really leaving?”
“The world is vast, where do you plan to go?” Yangfeng clenched her hand around Pingting’s, then brought the other to tighten her grip. In a choked voice, she said, “How can I sleep at night, when I think of you, a wandering girl? There are people who want to capture you in Gui Le and Chu Beijie undoubtedly thinks that you killed his nephews.”
“I’m going home?”
Pingting smiled faintly, gentleness and anticipation flashing in her voice. Slowly, she replied, “There’s someone waiting for me.” Lifting her hand, the wind swept her hair back messily, as she stood up looking out of the window in the direction of Dong Lin.
Just as they had promised each other.
- Bear Bile: Nowadays, raw bile can be sold for as much as $24,000 (USD) per kg, approximately half the price of gold – according to Wikipedia. Basically, it’s another one of those cruel industries. Anyway, it’s often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.