Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol01 Ch03
Ever since the visit to the shrine with Pingting, Lady Hua became very attached to Pingting and had an everlasting supply of subjects to talk about with her. She was closer to Pingting even more than the other girls who had been with her for the last few years. Coincidentally, Lady Hua’s maid, Miss Dong’er was very sick and had to go back home so her parents could look after her. Lady Hua then requested Pingting to become her personal attendant.
Just like that, Pingting rose from a manual-work maid to a wedding seamstress to the Lady’s Maid. She had skipped several stages, which surprised everyone.
September was just out of summer, but the autumn tiger was quite fierce.
The laughter of two girls was often heard behind the trees of the Lady’s main room.
“Then… is it like this?”
Lady Hua had tried to sew for the whole day, but she still didn’t get it. She threw away her sewing and sighed dramatically. “I refuse to learn, it’s no fun and my fingers are full of wounds.”
Pingting laughed, “I already warned My Lady that sewing wasn’t fun. When I first learned it, all ten of my fingers were swollen. My Lady’s wounds are very small anyway.” Pinting’s plan dictated that she was supposed to escape earlier, but since she hadn’t had any news of her Master, she decided to extend her stay.
That guqin was really good. Though Pingting liked it, she’d have to ask to use it, as it was displayed in Lady Hua’s room. After all, that qin was namely given to the Lady of Hua Residence.
“I wanted to sew something myself for him…” Lady Hua meant her secret lover.
“My Lady,”Mrs Hua seemed to be looking for her. Her face broke into a smile when she saw them and hurriedly smiled, “Oh, so My Lady was here, I had a difficult time finding you. Someone wants to see you.”
“Who wants to see me?”
“A handsome young man and the person who delivered you the qin is also there. He claims his name is Dong Dingnan.”
Pingting’s expression darkened. “He really came.”
“Bring him inside,” Lady Hua told the housekeeper before turning around and grabbed Pingting’s hands. Her eyes were bright when she said, “See? I guessed right, didn’t I? He really did want to see you.”
Pingting laughed, “He’s looking for My Lady, not me.”
Lady Hua answered back, “Geez, why are we still idling around? Come with me.”
She pulled Pingting into a guest house and sat down behind a blind. Soon the housekeeper led the guests inside
“My Lady, Mr Dong is here.”
“Okay. Mrs Hua, you may leave.”
Lady Hua and Pingting peeped at the man.
The housekeeper had left. There was only a young man left in the room. His clothes were expensive yet not flashy, the fabric being silk. His eyebrows were black and a graceful royal air surrounded him thus making him an extremely handsome young man.
Lady Hua stared and then whispered into Pingting’s ear. “Your qin skills must be really good, to have attracted such a good looking guy.”
Pingting was just as shocked as Lady Hua, though her thoughts were different.
She had been in Jing-An Ducal Residence for many years so she knew immediately that he was not just an average rich man.
Could he be an official of Dong Lin?
No, could he even be a member of the royal family?
It wasn’t entirely impossible to meet them, as this was Dong Lin’s capital. His manners and the formal way he gave the qin was even more suspicious.
“I, Dong Dingnan, have selfishly come to see you, Lady.” Dong Dingnan entered the room. When he saw the blinds, he knew immediately that she was quietly observing. He was extremely confident and laughed a little.
His family name wasn’t actually ‘Dong’ and his name certainly wasn’t ‘Dingnan’. He was the current ruler of Dong Lin’s very own brother, the Duke of Zhen-Bei, Chu Beijie. He was often out on the battlefield and used to figuring out enemy plans. He had just been strolling around an outside of a shrine, feeling very bored when he heard a mystical qin music that soothed his heart.
Who would miss the opportunity to meet a beauty?
As the brother of the King of Dong Lin and as the most important duke, Duke of Zhen-Bei, he had planned everything meticulously. First wait and listen, ask to see at a later time, give a qin and research the Hua family before going to their Residence.
Lady Hua saw how Pingting stared at the man without a word and assumed that she is fond of the good looking gentleman behind the blinds separating them. Not quite knowing what to say, she rolled her eyes, “Since you already know how inconvenient this is, why you still came to see My Lady? My Lady doesn’t usually see outsiders.”
Pingting raised an eyebrow, but Lady Hua was clearly pleased with herself.
“The sound of qin was memorable and I have come here to ask for another piece,” Chu Beijie replied breezily, giving a radiant smile.
Pingting began to analyse Dong Dingnan, but she could not recall a “Dong” family in Dong Lin. This man is using a fake name, which is extremely suspicious. If he finds out who I am, I might get into a lot of trouble. Seeing that Lady Hua was about to speak, she cut in, “Are you really here for a piece?”
“So you gave me the expensive Phoenix Paulownia-Guqin just to hear me play it?”
Pingting put the qin in front of her and plucked a string.
A soft qin melody drifted from within the blinds; it was like a small stream running through a mountain of fresh spring grass. Spellbinding.
Even people outside were listening, breathing in perfect unison.
The melody started strong and powerful, gradually fading to a slow, gentle and sweet section, finally finishing with a high-pitched trill.
After playing one piece, Pingting said, “This qin’s sound indeed seems to fly in the wind, disappearing yet ever present. I’m guessing that Mister would like another piece?”
The so called Dong Dingnan smiled, “My Lady is very understanding, yes, I would like to hear another piece.”
“I have already returned your favour with the piece I just played.” Pingting’s voice was suddenly cold, “Playing the qin is fine with me but playing for someone who is using a fake name does not make me feel comfortable.”
Chu Beijie seemed to be a little stunned. “When did My Lady realise I was using a fake name?”
“Mister does not need to know when.” Pingting knew that her suspicions were right and a sly smile crossed her face. “Mister only needs to tell me whether I guessed right or not.”
Chu Beijie’s eyes brightened and stared intently into the blinds. He had heard that the Lady of Hua Residence was a beauty with one-of-a-kind qin skills. It seemed that her skills lived up to her name, and it would be universally hard to find someone with similar skills. “My Lady is right. Dong Dingnan is one of my pseudonyms, though I didn’t imagine My Lady to see through that.”
“Why does Mister use a fake name?”
Chu Beijie thought that the girl in the blinds was very clever. Their conversation resembled the excitement of overthrowing an enemy, yet it was all hidden. Instead, he laughed and asked back, “Then why is Lady hiding behind the blinds?”
“Is my face that important?”
“Then are names that important?”
“How can Mister compare those two? You wanted a piece from me so I did you a favour. Of course you should use your real name.”
Chu Beijie sat by the table, sipping his cool tea, “Does My Lady not want anything?”
“Eh?” Pingting raised an eyebrow, “What do I want?”
“What My Lady wants is naturally music critic.” He simply laughed, his voice deep.
Pingting briefly thought that he was very difficult to guess, but had to admit that had a confident charm, which was enough to justify his arrogance.
Heart thumping loudly, she couldn’t help walking towards the curtain and secretly look closer.
Chu Beijie sat there proudly with a smug face that said ‘I know you’re secretly looking at me.’ Pingting noticed the decorative stitches of his clothes, finally letting her eyes fall on his jade pendant that hung from his waist.
Her slim figure was startled and she stiffened.
The jade pendant was shiny and smooth, obviously a top-quality product. What surprised her though was the Dong Lin royal family emblem.
He was someone of the Dong Lin royal family.
Pingting’s eyes suddenly lit up. She had not heard any news about the Duke of Jing-An ever since coming to Dong Lin for several months. She believed that this was a good opportunity. Why not ask this ‘Dong Dingnan’?
With that thought in mind, Pingting’s dark black eyes were now full of cunningness.
“I see that Mister is a music critic, do you have an opinion after one piece?”
“My opinion?” Chu Beijie stared into the blinds, the corners of his mouth suddenly lifting into a smile. Bemused, he replied. “The piece was like a mystical swan flying through the clouds and like a strong eagle conquering the fields. This shows that My Lady is curious towards all aspects of life and does not care for riches. My Lady is like a man in more ways than one.”
Pingting fell silent.
Chu Beijie was cleverer than she thought. He was able to tell her personality from one piece. Although she was fully aware of the potential danger he posed, she couldn’t help but give him a look of admiration.
Pingting replied, “Mister is indeed right, but unlike a man I cannot do anything. For example, the world outside must be big and beautiful but I have not seen this myself.”
This was on behalf of all women in the world, who were bound to their families and status. Even Lady Hua, who was still listening to their conversation, was nodding her head.
Pingting took a deep breath, “I heard that… apart from Dong Lin, there is a beautiful country called Gui Le. Don’t they all love to sing?”
“That’s right. Gui Le has many mountainous scenery, the people there like to dance and sing, but the most valuable thing in Gui Le is their copper. Gui Le makes more copper in one year than Dong Lin in three years.” Chu Beijie brightened at the mention of Gui Le because that was one of his few interests. He had spent almost every day pondering over the map of Gui Le and without thinking, he had chattered away about it.
“No wonder they say that Gui Le is rich. Must be their bronze.”
“Indeed, they are quite a rich country, but this has made them too relaxed. They are a weak country at the moment because the King and the nobility are always fighting internally.”
Chu Beijie summed up Gui Le’s problem in a couple of sentences.
The House of Jing-An was at the core of Gui Le and since Pingting had grown up in their Residence, she knew more details about the court than the average peasant.
If the King hadn’t been jealous of the centuries-old House of Jing-An, then the Residence would’ve never been burnt overnight, right?
When Pingting heard Gui Le’s biggest problem from the ‘enemy’ in such a nonchalant tone, she couldn’t help asking, “So does Gui Le not have any form of monarchy or governors?”
“Well yes, Gui Le does have a duke, Duke of Jing-An. He has looked after the armies and governed the country for many years.” His smiled gently, revealing pleasure, “But because the House of Jing-An’s army was too big and successful, the new King decided to wipe it out.”
“What!” A rustling sound was heard from behind the blinds, “Didn’t you say the people of House of Jing-An were good? Then Gui Le’s King must be really weird.”
Chu Beijie sat up straighter, his expression much more determined. He laughed, “The House of Jing-An may be loyal to Gui Le, but he hates my Dong Lin. Now that they’re gone and Gui Le is without a strong leader, Dong Lin can easily conquer Gui Le.”
Pingting painfully registered the news, but feigned happiness, “I see, then our Dong Lin is even stronger. So… did no one from the Jing-An Ducal Residence survived?”
“There are some very cunning people in the Jing-An Ducal Residence, especially the young master, He Xia. I heard they weren’t there at the time of the fire. It is believed that they have escaped Gui Le. He Su is still trying to capture them, despite being on the ‘same side’. A real pity.” What he really meant by the last two sentences was ‘it was a real pity that He Su didn’t finish off the House of Jing-An’.
She had finally learned that her Master had not been captured yet and she felt slightly relieved at this.
Her Master and the others were probably safe, right? Even if she tried, she didn’t know where to begin looking for them. Why not stay here for a little longer, accompanying Lady Hua, and use him to find out the latest news?
Thinking that much, she plucked another string.
On the other side, Chu Beijie heard that note and the melody that followed. It was harmoniously broad, yet as smooth as trickling water. It was very much inspiring like the first except it was slightly more feminine.
Before one could sigh in pleasure, a somewhat deep voice began to accompany the qin sound.
“When there is trouble, there are heroes…When there are heroes, there are beautiful women…surviving the turmoil, surviving the turmoil…”
The mellow voice resonated, like an angel.
Chu Beijie was temporarily caught off guard by her voice and the theme of this song. His heart lifted at the sound of her music. Although he was only twenty years old, he had learned the art of war since he was little and excelled in all his studies. He grew up in the royal Residence, meaning that he’d seen many beautiful women in his lifetime and over time, admiration became disgust and contempt for them.
He vowed to find a real, real beauty.
The person behind the blinds, he knew, was definitely the best qin player he had ever heard. It was impossible to criticise. Though he had not seen her personally, he knew that she was beautiful from a portrait he had asked for during his initial investigation.
Looking at the figure’s shape inside the blinds, he knew that it had to be her.
Each word filled the audience’s heart and mind like jade beads clattering on a plate, while sometimes as quiet as a cup soundlessly being placed onto the table.
Pingting ended the piece by singing ‘surviving the turmoil’ several times and held the note there, letting it slowly die away.
Chu Beijie had closed his eyes to appreciate the music and he took a while to come back to his senses. “This ‘Surviving the Turmoil’ song is inspired by the pain and suffering of the ‘beauty’. However, for you, there’s a completely different feeling. It’s more victorious, less suffering and pain.”
“Thank you Mister.” Pingting replied in a slightly deep voice and her face was flushed. Playing qin and singing was tiring work for her, but she still wanted to know more and had to keep his interest by appeasing his ear, “I’ve heard of He Xia from the House of Jing-An too. Don’t they all say he’s the best commander in Gui Le?”
“That is correct.”
“Then…is our Duke of Dong Lin stronger than him?”
Chu Beijie smiled at the mention of himself, “What does My Lady think?”
“I’ve been inside for too long, how should I know? I have heard, from the newest servants, that He Xia fought Chu Beijie a while ago, at the borders of Gui Le.”
“Who won the battle?” Pingting knew that the victor had to be her Master, but she thought the victory had been too easy. Sure, she did lead them into a trap, but the troops of the Duke of Zhen-Bei were large enough to put up a good fight. However, they admitted defeat and retreated a bit too quickly.
When the Duke of Zhen-Bei returned to Dong Lin, was he punished for his defeat? If the King of Dong Lin ripped Chu Beijie of his authority, then he would’ve helped Gui Le immensely.
“He Xia won.” Chu Beijie replied without any emotion.
“In other words, the Duke of Zhen-Bei lost?”
“No, the Duke of Zhen-Bei won too.”
Chu Beijie gave a dark, ambiguous smile, “He Xia small victory, Chu Beijie big victory.”
Most people wouldn’t understand, but this shocked Pingting deeply.
She knew this battle too well, Dong Lin had been invading the border for the last two years. At first, the King persisted in refusing to dispatch her Master there. It was only until the army there was about to admit defeat, when he’d hurriedly issued the transfer order, announcing that her Master must protect the border town at all costs.
The lack of medical supplies and food storage, in addition to the vigorous size of enemy army, had strongly threatened the military of her country.
But why did we win? She had thought of many scenarios to answer this question several times before, but Dong Dingnan had just confirmed her biggest fear.
“Why is My Lady so quiet?” His voice was deep.
Pingting pondered for a little longer, then sighed, “Humans can’t stop fighting, how annoying.”
Chu Beijie heard the annoyance in her voice, not quite understanding it, “My Lady, why bother with political affairs? Let’s talk about something more light-hearted.”
“True. Talking about nature would be a nicer topic.”
Pingting didn’t want to arouse his suspicions so she changed to literature and art. She was still worried that she might have accidentally given away her identity. She kept her answers short and always spoke curiously.
This was a good chance for Chu Beijie to show off, though he did try to keep a low profile, as he had travelled immensely in number before. But royal blood still ran his veins, so he veered off course. He began to talk about the shape of the place, then how to counterattack when attacked. He then explained when to openly attack, and when to plan assassinations. Even his comments about systems of government were well explained.
Hearing the silence inside the blinds, he tried to smile. “My discussions aren’t interesting enough. I swapped back to war again.”
Pingting, inside the blinds, was thinking that this man had to be at least a warrior of the Dong Lin army. Suddenly, she had another thought, could this guy be the Duke of Zhen-Bei himself?
No way…how can there be such a coincidence? She shook her head several times to forget the thought. She whispered, “Thank you Mister. As you know, I am female, so I do not understand these things.”
The two people unwittingly talked the whole afternoon away.
Just before sunset, two knocks were heard outside the door, and the young man who had passed on the qin came in and whispered in Chu Beijie’s ear.
Pingting saw this and felt that they were talking about the war, possibly even about her Master himself. She tried to hear what they were saying, but she was too far away.
Chu Beijie sat up straighter, “Talking with My Lady and hearing My Lady play the qin was very pleasant. I won’t bother My Lady anymore, Dingnan gives you his thanks. Dingnan will come again in two days.”
He got up too fast, too sudden. Pingting was even more suspicious that it was something to do with her master. She turned hostile, “Perhaps another girl has arrived outside your home.”
Dong Dingnan couldn’t help thinking that she was suddenly very rude and was about to retort back when Pingting suddenly laughed. “I know, I know. Women don’t interest Mr Dong; war is what Mister likes. Of course I shouldn’t hold Mister back.”
Her warm laughter rippled out and his fingers twitched. Humour flashed in his eyes. “The Marquess of Jing-An, Gui Le, whom My Lady had mentioned today; maybe My Lady will see him in a couple of days.”
This struck her like lightning. Pingting almost dropped her tea cup. Could it be that her Master had been found, captured and held in the Dong Lin capital?
She was about to ask again, but Chu Beijie had already stood up. “My apologies, but I must leave immediately, goodbye.”
Pingting made a strangled sound, “Please Mister, don’t leave yet.”
Chu Beijie really seemed to be in a rush. He simply waved before rapidly walking away into the night.
- Autumn tiger was quite fierce: Autumn was still quite warm.
- Music critic: This is one of the double/triple meaning words. In this case, it most likely means music critic, but the deeper meanings, “soul mate” (friend) and “soul mate” (lover), could also apply. I translated the manhua’s version as “soul mate” but that was probably a mistranslation. This is perhaps one of the reasons why Pingting thinks Chu Beijie is so cocky.