When Gui Changqing learned of Bai Pingting’s death, it felt like the huge stone in his heart had been put to rest. He was so happy he immediately raised the soldier in question, Fanlu, to a city govenor, after strictly telling him to keep it a secret.
He didn’t quite exactly know whether the situation had really improved, but it seemed that the hanging clouds of unnecessary loss of life over Yun Chang had suddenly dispersed. Not only did the war not begin, Chu Beijie was still utterly distraught over the matter about Pingting and disappeared. Dong Lin was an entire mess now and was completely incapable of threatening Yun Chang. The command flag in the Prince Consort’s hands had also returned to the Princess as there were no more wars to be fought.
“Haha,” laughed Gui Changqing, overcome by his emotions, “It seemed this Bai Pingting step was done well.”
He did hope that others wouldn’t find out Bai Pingting’s death had to do with Yun Chang. He had kept the secret for several days, waiting until Bei Mo had openly mourned and spread Bai Pingting’s death to the rest of the world. Only then did he head to the Royal Residence to tell Princess Yaotian.
“Died?” Yaotian was taken aback. She lowered her voice, “Didn’t I tell Senior Official the battle is over hence it’s fine to leave Pingting to her own life and death. Why didn’t you let her go?”
“Princess misunderstood. How could I not obey Princess’ orders? Bai Pingting attempted to bypass the checkpoints of the Yun Chang border, thinking to enter Bei Mo by crossing the Songsen Mountains. Unfortunately, her wisdom brought her to her demise. She met wolves in the mountains.”
Yaotian was dubious. She remained silent for a while, before frowning, “Does the Prince Consort know?”
“The news has already spread. Prince Consort should already knows.” Yaotian sighed heavily. Gui Changqing was curious, “What’s wrong, Princess? Bai Pingting died a premature death. Is this not to the benefit of Princess?”
Yaotian’s smile was bitter. “If Prince Consort knows that Bai Pingting died, his mood must be terrible. If he’s upset, how could I possibly not be either?”
Gui Changqing saw Yaotian deeply cherished He Xia and was secretly alarmed by this. He quickly changed the subject. “Come to think of it, last time Princess gave an Order to build the army a treasury and granary. I have temporarily suspended this Order.”
Yaotian looked at Gui Changqing surprised. “Military affairs are urgent. Even if we hurry, it’s still not quick enough. Why did Senior Official suspend it?”
“I think, this isn’t quite right.”
“He is a dignified Prince Consort. What isn’t quite right about him being in charge of a single treasury and granary?”
“Princess, listen to my words.” Gui Changqing stood up and took two steps forward. His tone was very warm. “The Prince Consort already has military power, and the only thing that can control him is grain and money. If he has both, what else does Princess have to rein back the Prince Consort?”
Yaotian sighed faintly. “I know Senior Official is thinking about me. However, I am already husband and wife with the Prince Consort. He has been working hard day and night for Yun Chang, however, we keep suspecting him and trying to hold him back. Senior Official, is that really okay? He and I are now one. Don’t forget, his future son will become the master of Yun Chang one day.”
From ancient history and even now, the feelings between man and woman had always been the most difficult to organise. Many people had fallen into its trap, and they could not be pulled out whatsoever.
If Yaotian was a normal woman, this kind of thinking was utterly perfect in every way. However, she was the representative of Yun Chang’s Royal House.
Gui Changqing knew it would be difficult to convince further, but he had to continue. He coughed once before softly continuing, “Princess, do you remember the words you said to me on your wedding day?”
“My wedding day?” Yaotian’s expression was one of recollection. She laughed shallowly, “How could I forget it? That day, Yaotian was feeling very uneasy and asked Senior Official into the room to have a private conversation with me.”
“Princess wondered how it was possible to keep He Xia’s heart and told me to think ways to do so.” Gui Changqing bowed, “Back then, I promised Princess that I’ll put my heart into it.”
When Yaotian heard this, her gaze flickered beyond him. She slowly said, “Yet today, why do I feel that every action of Senior Official is to force the Prince Consort’s person and heart further and further away from me?”
“Senior Official doesn’t need to say any more.” Yaotian interrupted his word. She paused before revealing a solemn expression of determination. “I have already promised the Prince Consort to build a special treasury and granary for the military. This is beneficial to the citizens of this country, so please do not argue any further, Senior Official, and quickly approve of it.”
Gui Changqing hesitated as well. Studying Yaotian’s expression, he knew that it was impossible to change her mind. He could only lower his head to say, “I…Yes.” He sighed.
Gui Changqing had been the official for many years and was considerate. Yaotian had always, since childhood, respected him as an elder. She never dismissed his opinions so abruptly before him. He seemed quite upset. She was silent for a long time before softening her voice, “Is there anything else Senior Official would like to tell me?”
Gui Changqing indeed have something he wanted to say.
“Ahem,” said Gui Changqing, “there’s something else.”
“I would like to ask Princess to give a person to the Prince Consort.”
Yaotian was slightly stunned. She looked at Gui Changqing, “Who?”
“My newly adopted daughter, Huan Fengyin. Although she isn’t particularly beautiful, she is very gentle and likes to play qin and can sing. She is loyal and dedicated to the Royal House of Yun Chang.”
Yaotian processed what she heard. When she understood, her heart was very uncomfortable. She coldly replied, “Senior Official would like me to send a concubine to the Prince Consort Residence?”
“Yun Chang has prohibitions on expression, as a result Prince Consort and Princess do not live together. There must be at least one concubine in the Prince Consort Residence. After all, the Prince Consort almost raised Bai Pingting to a concubine last time. Now that Bai Pingting is dead, why doesn’t Princess be a little open and give one to Prince Consort?”
Yaotian’s expression was ugly. “Who says that the Prince Consort Residence needs a concubine? I am the Princess. If prohibitions can rise, then so can they fall.”
Gui Changqing smiled, “Princess is wrong. Prohibitions can change, but can people’s hearts change? Rather than letting the Prince Consort choose someone who Princess doesn’t like, it’s better for Princess to choose someone who can help Princess look after Prince Consort. With her there, the Prince Consort can’t easily get another Concubine and, if the Prince Consort’s heart is taken away by someone else, at least there’s someone who can pass on the message.”
The Princess’ chest began to tighten. She shook her head. “No. Others can be discussedbbut not this.”
Gui Changqing knew now was not the time to press on. He stepped back, “Since it’s like that, I will depart. Please consider it, Princess. It’s not too late to act after careful consideration.” He bowed and left the room.
Yaotian watched the brief dazzle of the curtains. She was the only one left in the room. Her original good mood was completely ruined by Gui Changqing’s various proposals. She couldn’t help hate him secretly.
What reigning back in, when he actually dared to want her to send in another?
She thought of how hateful the Yun Chang laws were. When women marry, of course they should live together with their husband. Yet why was the utterly pitiful Princess had to stay in the Royal Residence? It seemed there were two stars on opposite sides of the silver river. One star was the Royal Residence, the other being the Prince Consort Residence, and the residents could only stay inside, watching the other miserably.
He Xia was strong and handsome. His fame was enough to shake the skies. As a hero, he had had a great number of experiences in the world. Now that he was the Prince Consort, he had more power and fame. Just how many people secretly watched him from the darkness with red cheeks? How could she stop him from two-timing or even three?
What if the Prince Consort really fell in love with someone and begged to establish her as a concubine? People would be interested to see what she, the dignified Princess, would do. If she refused, everyone would be able to ridicule her jealous heart.
Yaotian looked in the mirror, unsatisfied. The jealousy in her eyes reflected in the mirror gave her a fright. She hurriedly fished out a scarf and covered the mirror.
Luyi was outside the curtains. “Princess, the dried flowers have arrived.”
Yaotian’s mood was irritable and did not want to be disturbed by anyone. She lifted her voice, “Take it away. If there’s nothing major, don’t report it.”
Luyi heard the anger hidden in her voice and jumped back. She lowered her voice, “Yes.” She secretly poked out her tongue, not knowing what the Senior Official said that made the Princess so angry.
When she was just about to take away the vase full of dried flowers and leave, she heard another order from Yaotian. “Luyi, just wait there.”
Luyi suddenly stopped, relying, “Yes.” She waited outside the curtain.
Why did she, as a Princess, have to stay in the Royal Residence? It was so unfair…
Yaotian thought about Gui Changqing’s proposal, carefully pondered it and realised it wasn’t unreasonable.
That Fengyin was “not particularly beautiful”, so even if the Prince Consort finds her fresh at first, ten days or half a month later, his interest would slowly fade. “Very gentle, likes to play qin and can sing” could only relieve the Prince Consort of his boredom.
As a person the Senior Official found, Yaotian completely trusted in this Fengyin. She would pour tea at one side or sometimes be as close as a pillow to easily monitor the Prince Consort’s every action. Secondly, if the Prince Consort really were to be hooked away by another woman, Fengyin could deal with it by screaming and making noise, acting as the difficult corner of connection.
“Indeed, it seems it is not entirely unreasonable.” Yaotian murmured to herself, slightly moved. But when she thought of an extra concubine by He Xia’s side, her eyebrows furrowed and could feel not one part of her body be comfortable. It was unspeakably suffocating.
Luyi stood outside and heard Yaotian’s pacing footsteps. Occasionally she’d bring the gems of the bead curtain to collide fiercely into each other, but not long later, there was no movement again. It was a long gap before she heard a voice from inside, “Luyi.”
“Luyi is here, Princess.”
“Send someone to the Senior Official and say…” The voice inside stopped again.
Luyi strained her ears and waited for a long time. She puzzledly looked inside the curtains.
Yaotian was standing in the middle of the room. Her back was straightened, and she was as motionless as a statue.
“Princess?” Luyi probed with her question.
Yaotian helplessly sighed. Her face was deathly gray, “Just say, Princess has thought it though so Senior Official can go ahead. The Royal Order will be written soon and sent to the Prince Consort Residence.”
He Xia’s horse had been galloping nonstop for the entire day. It had not drank a single drop of water even upon returning to the Prince Consort Residence, as the messenger from the Royal Residence had come to pass on the Royal Order.
He Xia received the Order inside the room, and he asked someone to send off the messenger. Dongzhuo saw there wasn’t any people around and lowered voice, “They still aren’t satisfied with the spies amongst the servants and have to put another by your pillow. I bet it’s handiwork of that Senior Official.”
He Xia held the order, his face ashen and silent.
Not long later, a manservant came to report, “Prince Consort, there is a carriage outside the residence. It seems to be the Miss Fengyin the Princess has given to Prince Consort.”
Anger crossed He Xia’s eyes. He faintly replied, “Understood, I’ll go now.” He strode on the way. The moment he stepped out of the Prince Consort Residence gates, his ashen face had already become a smile.
“Miss Fengyin must be tired.” He Xia personally went forwards, gracefully helping the woman off the carriage.
Fengyin reached the ground, slowly bowing to He Xia. “Prince Consort.” Her voice was timid. She raised her eyes to look at He Xia. They were also shy.
The two entered the residence together. He Xia led her to the rear courtyard, saying as he walked, “The Royal Order only just arrived, so Miss’ room has not been decided yet. Why not go and have some tea in the room. Once dinner is finished, the maids should be finished.”
Fengyin lowered her head. “Fengyin received the Royal Order to serve the Prince Consort. I am merely a servant; there is no need to have a separate room. Prince Consort can give Fengyin any room that previous maids have lived in, any is fine.” She stopped at one which happened to be where Pingting had lived.
Dongzhuo’s expression suddenly changed. He took a few steps forwards but saw a warning glance from He Xia, so he gritted his teeth and withdrew.
He Xia’s voice became gentle, “Since it’s like that, this room is empty indeed. It might be a little troublesome, but Miss can stay here.”
“Thank you, Prince Consort.” Fengyin gently smiled before she swivelled to He Xia. “Fengyin will now go into the room to tidy her belongings before serving the Prince Consort during dinner.”
He watched her push open the doors and step inside.
He Xia didn’t make a word and turned away. Dongzhuo’s expression was dark as he followed behind. When they passed the fake mountain, they heard the plucking qin sound. It appeared that Fengyin was fiddling with that guqin in the room.
Dongzhuo furiously stopped moving. He grinded his teeth, “Gui Changqing, the old fool who can’t die, went way too far this time! Master, why…” When he raised his head, he realised He Xia was already far away.
When all the snow melted, spring had finally come.
It was finally the season to pick flowers.
Compared to previous years, the circumstances of the four countries had become a completely different situation again.
In the Gui Le Royal Residence, the relationship between the King and the Queen’s family was like a current secretly flowing under ice, whirling out more and more urgently.
The Main General of Bei Mo officially headed to live in seclusion, taking his wife and child away from the old location.
The King of Dong Lin died through despair, lament and disease. Under all of the officials, the Queen of Dong Lin boarded the highest, centermost throne of the state hall.
Accompanied with Bai Pingting’s death was the disappearance of the Duke of Zhen-Bei, Chu Beijie.
Only one of the two famous generals were left. Only the Marquis of Jing-An, He Xia remained but he didn’t do anything particular.
To dominate the world, one must first revived and prepared.
As a result, the hand that held the sword of Yun Chang’s Prince Consort remained calm and composed.
Outside Yun Chang.
Late in the night, the moon shone brightly while the insects crooned softly.
In a small cabin outside the forest, a white-haired, old man was sat cross-legged. His young student respectfully said, “I have something I don’t understand and would like Teacher to teach me. Teacher taught in Bei Mo for many years and was beloved there. Why were you determined to leave Bei Mo and came to Yun Chang?”
The old man laughed. “When old, people fear death. The four countries are soon to become a mess. Where else am I to hide apart from the safest place, Yun Chang?”
The student was curious, “How does Teacher know that Yun Chang is the safest place?”
“Haha, the two famous generals under the skies are Chu Beijie and He Xia respectively. Who remains?”
“Chu Beijie’s whereabouts is unknown, while He Xia is currently the Prince Consort in Yun Chang’s capital.”
“How could the Marquess of Jing-An really be satisfied as the Prince Consort?” The old man sighed, “Gui Le has directed their own ruin by forcing out tearing down their safety barrier, the House of Jing-An. Bei Mo has lost Ze Yin while Dong Lin has lost Chu Beijie. Whenever He Xia leads the Yun Chang army out to kill, none of the three countries have good enough generals to oppose He Xia. Where else, apart from Yun Chang, can you hide from the war?”
“Teacher’s conclusion has come down too soon.”
“Who else could possibly rival He Xia as a general?”
“There’s one,” said the disciple, “Chu Beijie.”
The old man smiled as he looked at him, an insensible and spoiled child. “Where is Chu Beijie now?”
That disciple was plenty stubborn himself. He replied, “As long as he is alive, he remains a famous general and He Xia’s opponent.”
“So what if he’s alive? He is just a walking zombie, so even if he does face He Xia, he will simply give away his life for nothing.”
“There is someone who can definitely make him start anew.”
The old man laughed, “And where is Bai Pingting now?”
The disciple was surprised. He lowered her head, “She is dead.”
“Correct, she is a dead.” The old man stroked his long gray beard and softly sighed.
The disciple still refused to give up. “If Chu Beijie could start anew for a Bai Pingting, why can’t he do so for others?”
The old man’s gentle gaze rested on the face of his disciple. In the depths of his eyes, its corners were yellowed with age, but the light flickering was the fire of wisdom.
“Have you ever heard of Bai Pingting’s qin?”
“Have you ever met Bai Pingting?”
“Have you ever seen the letter Bai Pingting haded to the Princess of Yun Chang to pass onto Chu Beijie on the battlefield?”
“I haven’t.” The disciple had his head lowered as he replied, “I have only heard of her name, as well as what she has done.
Bai Pingting, Bai Pingting of the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
Her name had spread through the world.
And her story was yet finished.
- “Silver river”: Allusion to the legend of the Qixi Festival. It’s about two starcrossed lovers that can only be together for a single night every year.