Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol01 Ch08
Pingting had spent the last three days resting but she was clearly distracted.
The flowers outside were in full bloom, and they were an extremely enchanting red. However, Pingting’s eyes flickered past them, her eyes resting on the lush green leaves.
Chu Beijie hadn’t visited her in the last three days.
“It’s fine if you don’t come…”
She had spent the last three days worrying, afraid of Chu Beijie visiting her again but afraid of him forgetting her little room too. “What kind of command is ‘get better first’?” She continued to think and blushed a light pink, as if there was a cute kitten playing with her heart. Mother Zhang even said, “Miss Hong, you seem much better, for you cheeks are pink and tender.”
That afternoon, Chu Moran entered her room, passing on Chu Beijie’s words. “No appetite, so make a few dishes and take them to Duke’s room.”
Cook? Pingting bit her lip, slowly heading for the kitchen.
Chu Beijie was in a good mood today. He waited for three days when usually, as the Duke of Zhen-Bei, he’d get whatever he wanted immediately. He was looking forward to getting along with his cute and intelligent maid.
Hong wasn’t pretty, but was interesting enough to deserve his effort and time. Thinking of her and their moments together made him smile a little. Their meeting was sort of destiny as well; for after all, he was a Duke and she was just a lowly maid.
“Besides, she had already suffered from her sickness for ages, God’s punishment was enough for her”, he thought to convince himself.
Chu Beijie didn’t usually forgive people yet he easily forgave this talented girl. It was a fine day. He was planning to eat some of Hong’s cuisine, listen to her play the qin, and then seduce her with his charms.
These cheesy thoughts were in his mind, in contrast to the usual killing scenes, all because of a girl who wasn’t even pretty.
That is, until after taking a sip of Pingting’s soup. His smile had instantly dropped, disappearing completely.
Pingting eagerly studied his reaction.
“My Master never eats anything I make.”
Chu Beijie’s expression was extremely odd when he nodded. “Your master is very clever, isn’t he?” He hesitated before saying honestly, “This soup is disgusting.”
Pingting had actually been very worried but seeing his usually-composed, handsome face so distorted was amusing enough to make her smile, dimples showing.
Chu Beijie sighed, “Now I really know why they say those who know the best recipes can’t always cook well.”
Pingting nodded in agreement, “Likewise. Those who know battle tactics can’t always fight in a war themselves.”
Her comment really suited Chu Beijie’s style. He slapped his hand down on his knee in response, chuckling. “Well said! Well said!” He laughed again but suddenly stopped and stared at Pingting with wide eyes, “Have you fully recovered yet?”
His voice was husky, full of affection. She could feel his ego again and nervously, she took a step back.
It would’ve been better if she hadn’t moved, for Chu Beijie moved even faster. He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer, hugging her waist.
“Kyaa!” Pingting gasped in surprise, as she was being pulled into his chest. Lifting her head, she could see his black eyes watching her playfully.
Chu Beijie had one arm over her, so she couldn’t move. He lowered his head and whispered in her ear, “Dangerous situation. How is My Lady going to counter it?”
His whisper gave her a shock, heart almost jumping out of her throat. She was a little scared, but for some reason, she also felt the impulse to smile. She frowned as she looked at him, “The victor will always decide the fate of the defeated, meaning that further annihilation is unnecessary?”
Chu Beijie wasn’t convinced, and shook his head. “Where are the so-called-defeated, for I haven’t heard any song of defeat yet?”
His mouth was very close to Pingting’s neck and she could feel his breath. Unnerved, she seemed to shrink in his arms. In a delicate and charming voice, she asked, “Since ancient times, there have only been songs of victory. Since when were there songs of defeat as well?”
“You can sing the first and from thereon, it’ll exist.” Chu Beijie smiled threateningly, “If you don’t sing, don’t blame me if I annihilate you.” He moved in to kiss her.
“Don’t…” Pingting felt helpless because this person was just too cunning. She could only glare accusinglyat him.
Chu Beijie was temporarily stunned by her glare, but he wanted to kiss her so badly, so he continued to inch closer. That was when Pingting started to sing softly.
“Swallows bring fortune, but too much fortune brings damage. A joy to look, a joy to look…”
As expected, Pingting’s voice was touching and Chu Beijie had closed his eyes, listening in appreciation. He only started to open his eyes several seconds after the song had finished. “From now on, you must never sing in front of others, as you evoke too much emotion and will end up breaking their hearts.” He sighed twice, his happy expression turning serious. “You are too special to be just a maid from Hua Residence. Who are you really?”
This struck her like lightning. She accompanied her master several times onto battle, was a fair, honest military advisor, and knew battle tactics like the back of her hand. She had even indirectly fought against the famous Duke of Zhen-Bei, this very person in front of her, several times before.
Chu Beijie saw her pale face, feeling love and affection for her. Patting the hair on her forehead, he whispered, “Don’t be scared, just tell me the truth. I’ll definitely protect you. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Pingting gave a bitter smile.
If Chu Beijie knew that she was Gui Le’s Jing-An Ducal Residence’s Bai Pingting, he’d know that she was the one threatened to drown his Zhen-Bei’s army. There was no possibility that he’d protect her if he knew that she knew all sorts of secrets about the House of Jing-An.
The consequences were unthinkable.
“Tell me.” He stared intently into those black pupils, “I’ll help you, whoever you are.”
Pingting’s eyes flickered towards Chu Beijie’s eyes, which were supportive. She took a deep breath, “I was raised as a qin maid in the Prince, now King’s residence in Gui Le.”
Chu Beijie was stunned.
“Hong’s real name is Yangfeng and I was brought into the Prince’s Residence as a child. However, Prince Su really liked me and so I was taught to play qin so that I could entertain him when he drank wine in the gardens.”
“Yangfeng?” Chu Beijie was a little curious, “Then how did you end up in the Hua Residence?”
Pingting lowered her eyes, sighing. “To be honest, I started to get really popular with my Master. Some people in Gui Le started to get threatened by my influence. I was stupid and naïve. Somehow, I got into deep trouble. I was supposed to die, but two of my friends helped me escaped, only to meet some human traffickers. That’s how I ended up in Dong Lin and then… I met the Duke.” She shrugged and gave a forced laugh, “A series of coincidences.”
Chu Beijie studied her. “I was right. You really are from a royal residence.” He knew all about the royal residential life and naturally, he was sympathetic. “Don’t worry, I bet not even the Queen of Gui Le, but He Su himself can do anything about you.”
For some reason, the tips of Pingting’s ears went slightly red. Seeing how Chu Beijie was being so kind, she hurriedly lowered her head and bowed, “Thank you, Duke.”
Chu Beijie smiled, “You can get up now.” He helped her up, particularly paying attention to her hands. “These are good qin hands.” He was tightly holding on to them now and probably wasn’t going to let go.
Pingting wanted to hide, but she couldn’t. It was like Chu Beijie was controlling her heart. She pretended to wipe her hands, but that didn’t work either. “Duke…” but she was answered with a teasing smile. Her thoughts were a mess.
Chu Beijie released his hold when he had finally had enough of seeing her blush. “I heard you sing, but now I want to hear you play qin. Hong, no Yangfeng, play something for me.”
Pingting nodded and looking in the direction that Chu Beijie had been pointing at, she saw a guqin on the table. When she sat down, she couldn’t help noticing that it was the Phoenix Paulownia-Guqin.
The music began again……
It was like the first time one had seen the Alps, the pine branches decorated with snow and the fierce wind billowing in the background. A scene of sorrow.
Slowly, the wind died away and the snow came again. Though it was still cold, there was more life in it. The snow had yet to stop but some small animals had already come out in search for food. They scurried up the trees and picked some berries. Then they paused, as if they were hearing something. They had disappeared before one even realised it.
The mountains were quiet.
Soon, joyful laughter was heard, far away. Around four children had come to have a snow fight and suddenly, there were balls of snow flying all over the place. They were half-yelling, half-laughing, messing around but either way, they were having fun.
The qin sound came to a joyous end.
Chu Beijie was comfortably leaning on his chair and opening his eyes he said, “Nice but why isn’t there a reverberation?”
“There’s no set way to interpreting music, so why isn’t stopping at the happiest moment acceptable?” She bit her lip.
Their eyes met and they were wondering why their hearts were beating so fast. Finally, Chu Beijie cleared his throat, clapped twice while ordering, “Yangfeng, come here.”
Pingting stood up from the guqin, slowly shuffled closer to him. There was about a table’s distance between them when she mischievously asked, “Does Duke still plan to drink my soup?”
Thinking of the disgusting soup, Chu Beijie had to shake his head vigorously.
“Then… I’ll take it out.”
She took the plates, backing rapidly out of the room.
Chu Beijie watched her disappear in bewilderment. Then he clapped quietly.
Chu Moran appeared in the doorway.
“There’s a qin maid in Gui Le, who goes by the name Yangfeng.” Chu Beijie shrugged, “Research her.”
“Yes, I will begin immediately.”
Pingting had begun to settle down in the Zhen-Bei Ducal Residence. It wasn’t hard serving Chu Beijie – it was much like her Jing-An Ducal Residence days. She didn’t have to prepare any tea or do any hard work. All she had to do was to play qin and listen to him.
Everyone in the residence knew that she was special to Chu Beijie, and no one dared to treat her badly. Everyone called her, ‘Miss Yangfeng’.
Summer was not yet over when the water lilies began to bloom. One day, the two were talking after lunch.
“How big is this world?”
“I should be asking Duke instead. How should I know?” Pingting tilted her head, slightly rolling her eyes. “Don’t tell me Duke wants to know, so Duke can command the soldiers to conquer all of it?”
Chu Beijie laughed, “Why not?”
Pingting raised an eyebrow, “I don’t believe the rest of the world will give up so easily. There are four countries. Dong Lin has Duke of course, but the other three… well, even the Marquess of Jing-An in Gui Le isn’t that easy to be taken down.
“He Xia?” Chu Beijie hummed, face breaking into a mysterious smile.
“Oh yeah, back then, what did you mean by saying that I might be able to see the Marquess soon?” Pingting pretended to recall, “I saw him from behind the blinds once back in the Prince’s Residence. He looked heroic and I had a pretty good impression of him. An outstanding person, I’d say.” Before she even realised it, Chu Beijie had his arms over her again.
“Good impression? An outstanding person?” Chu Beijie’s voice was dangerous.
Pingting however, laughed at this. “Are you jealous, Duke?” Seeing that Chu Beijie was indeed jealous, she quietly added “Duke, please don’t be stingy. Besides, I heard that he was targeted by the Gui Le King. Maybe he’s already dead.”
Chu Beijie laughed darkly while shaking his head, “If he dies so easily, he wouldn’t be He Xia anymore.”
Pingting’s heart began to race because she had been waiting for this chance for a long time. “In other words, Duke knows where he is?” She couldn’t control her excitement.
“He Xia escaped from the Gui Le city grounds and Gui Le is currently being monitored by the soldiers. Sigh, I almost caught him a couple of days ago.” Sensing her body shake, he asked, “Yangfeng, are you okay?”
“No, no.” Pingting shook her head, her face very pale. To seem less suspicious, she raised an eyebrow. “Last time, it was Osmanthus. This time, it’s Chinese roses. What’s next?”
Pingting met his eyes, “Duke keeps using different fragrances.” She pretended to be annoyed.
All traces of his suspicion were gone. Laughing, he said “Why be annoyed, since it’s hard to get certain flowers sometimes? When I choose my Duchess, I won’t look for someone pretty, just for someone who can accompany me to battle.”
“Duke, you haven’t finished with He Xia’s story.”
“What’s there to say? I ordered my spies to report the moment he arrived in Dong Lin, but somehow he managed to know what we were planning. He dodged my ambush and even killed my spy. He’s back in Gui Le somewhere now. That was all for nothing.”
Pingting quietly sighed in relief.
She knew that He Xia was safe and it was time to leave.
Actually, she should’ve left ages ago. She would often ask Chu Beijie whether she could walk around the residence. He ordered someone to follow her from afar on the first couple of times, but after that, he let her walk by herself.
She didn’t have any money for the journey, but the three bracelets Chu Beijie had given her were more than enough.
The route was roughly planned too.
She thoroughly thought things through, but she couldn’t decide when to leave.
Ten days later, autumn came. The leaves were yellower day by day, and they would fall down sooner or later.
It was time to go, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave.
Chu Beijie was used to her playing the qin every day. She would sing, and he’d close his eyes, often smiling in delight.
Those smiles were imprinted in Pingting’s mind. They were so sweet.
She was used to playing qin and singing for him. She knew that something big had happened on the days that Chu Beijie didn’t visit her. Either something unfortunate had happened in the residence or an official had done something wrong. Of course, there were other reasons too.
Like the previous day, Chu Beijie wouldn’t let her play qin. “Did you really cough last night? Don’t pretend. How could I not know everything that happens in my residence? It’s not like I can’t afford a doctor, so why didn’t you tell me?”
Pingting wasn’t there at dinner last night, but little did she know that Chu Moran wasn’t there either. He had spent the night making preparations to move Pingting into a better room and making an appointment with Chen Guangzhi.
“Why?” She stared out the window, where the leaves were caught in the wind. “We could be enemies in a way. You bully me, but then you’re nice to me. Sometimes you say some pretty harsh things and rarely say something kind. Other times, you act like a real gentleman, but then again, you act like a spoilt Duke.” She sighed, “Such an incomprehensible figure. Whoever’s with him just suffers.”
A maid asked her to visit Chu Beijie. The moment Pingting entered the room, Chu Beijie said, “You’ll definitely love the menu today.”
Sure enough, there was a selection of delicacies. Among them, there was steamed eggplant and ‘eight treasure pickles’, all famous cuisines.
“You don’t eat much these days. You have to eat a little more today. You see, I got a Gui Le chef to make these.” Chu Beijie watched her eagerly as he beckoned her to eat.
Pingting tasted it and the eggplant flavour melted in her mouth. Then she tried the eight treasure pickles but she chuckled straight away, “Duke knows even less than me about cuisine. You got a Gui Le chef, but not all of these dishes are from Gui Le. For example, this eight treasure pickles are a famous Bei Mo dish, so why is it here?”
Chu Beijie sighed, “I see. I’ll get someone else to cook for you then.”
But Pingting shook her head instead and pointing at the eight treasure pickles dish, she said, “I love these. Duke doesn’t know that I’m from Bei Mo after all.”
“Yeah, but I was sold into Gui Le at a young age. This is my favourite dish.” She placed a piece of it in Chu Beijie’s bowl. “Duke, why don’t you taste some?”
The candlelight shone prettily on her cheeks and Chu Beijie couldn’t help getting closer to her.
“I want to taste you,” were his words.
Pingting’s heart almost stopped.
He was too close and tightly holding onto her. It was hard to move. She turned her head and bit down on his ear.
“OW!” His chopsticks fell onto the floor with a clang.
“What ‘no’?” Chu Beijie asked in a hurt voice while stroking his ear, “I chose you way back then, and I refuse to let you run away. I’m going to take you with me on the battlefield in the future.”
Her lips were a tight line but her eyes were like fire, ready to burn anything and everything.
“I want to marry you.” He had let her catch her breath before he said this proposal.
“Duke?” Pingting looked at him bewilderedly. She was frowning, everything had happened all too fast and nothing seemed to fit with her original plan. Was I not acting ambiguously enough?
She was supposedly Yangfeng, a Gui Le’s qin maid, an escaped maid.
He was the Duke of Zhen-Bei, and yet he wanted to marry her.
Chu Beijie looked unhappy, “You don’t want to?”
Pingting widened her eyes, Chu Beijie was too close, and she felt very hot. He was very handsome. Everything about him was just strangely charming.
He had always been a proud, arrogant man.
“Not only you can play qin and sing well,but you also have nimble hands and owns a heart of gold.” Chu Beijie’s smile was as dangerous as poisonous plants. “I’d much rather choose you over many other women.”
“Let’s swear to the moon, never turn against each other.”
Pingting smiled sadly. His words were like warm water, warming her from within. Chu Beijie helped her stand.
“Never turn against each other?” Every word slowly tumbled out of her mouth.
Chu Beijie hugged her tightly, “Yes, from then on, you will be my Duchess and I will be your husband.”
Remembering the Duke of Zhen-Bei on the battlefield, she took a step back.
“No…” She struggled to answer.
“I am only… a qin maid.”
“I like your qin.”
“I’m not good enough for Duke.”
“I’m good enough for you.”
Yet she still shook her head and biting on her lip, she said “I… I’m not pretty enough.”
Chu Beijie pretended to study her. “I think you’re fine to look at.” He grinned.
Pingting was silent. She rolled her black crystal eyes but she still had a slight heartache. Leave, tomorrow, I have to leave. This man’s troops have attacked the place I was born, grew up, and is now sitting back and manipulating the King to hurt the people of my residence.
But Chu Beijie’s embrace was always so warm, and it was hard to leave behind. Despite this, she still pushed him away and even said ‘no’ to him.
Her thumping heart began to calm down. Her complete rationalself hadn’t returned yet, so her thoughts were mainly illogical. She had to go. She had to leave, but she needed something that wouldn’t make her look back.
The word ‘unfulfilled’ flashed into her mind several times.
“Duke,” she mumbled quietly but then she lifted her head and said, “I don’t want to be your duchess, but I…”
She bit down on her lip and remained quiet. Chu Beijie smiled kindly at her, “Continue.”
“No, don’t bother.” It was like she had heard a touching song and Pingting could barely hold back her tears. She took a deep breath, suddenly hugged Chu Beijie hard and as she slowly looking up, she said “It’s destiny that we were to meet, so may we just unite this one time?”
It was difficult for her to ask, but she would finally get what she wanted.
Thoughts of her country were at the back of her mind. Tomorrow would be another story.
She simply didn’t care anymore. Tonight was hers.
And she was his.
Chu Beijie thought he had misheard her and he looked really confused until understanding flooded into his eyes. He laughed. Then, lifting her up, he briskly walked to his bedroom where he placed her down gently on his bed.
Head looking down, he studied her white, elegant hand.
“Let’s be together forever.”
“Yeah.” Pingting nodded, a tear sliding down her cheek.
Underneath her clothes, she was one real flower. Seeing her made something snap inside his mind and he gazed at her.
“Beautiful…” He touched her with his mouth, inhaling her scent. She smelled of sweet flowers.
She sighed, “Beijie.”
“Back then I was Dingnan, now I’m Beijie.” He noticed that she was a little nervous.
Outside, a full moon was shining.
That night, in the quiet Zhen-Bei Ducal Residence, the two people, respectively from Gui Le and Dong Lin laid together. One losing soul, the other losing heart.
Her sleeping face was serene in the moonlight. Pingting was smiling in her dreams and her breathing was quiet, regular.
She was tired. He could tell back then from her blurry eyes, like the stars were too bright for her.
Her perfect lips, slim waist and her long thin legs were all imprinted in his mind. Chu Beijie’s expression was of happiness, but then for some reason, his smile disappeared. He was frowning.
He walked out of the bedroom, quietly closing the door behind him.
Chu Moran was waiting for him in the office.
Chu Beijie walked inside with heavy steps and he sat down expressionless. Chu Moran handed him a sheet of paper.
—Yangfeng, from Bei Mo, sold into Gui Le at will. Plays qin, is one of the two famous Gui Le qin players.
Favoured by He Su but rarely appears in public.
Loves flowers and plants.
Favourite food: Eight treasure pickles.
Favourite colour: Blue
Never been seen since accused of a crime.
He took out a sheet of paper and looked at it again.
It felt as if the temperature had just dropped several degrees. Chu Moran felt rather uncomfortable.
“Nothing suspicious at all,” Chu Beijie laughed bitterly.
He had rarely seen his master look so helpless and Chu Moran couldn’t help lowering his head and saying, “Duke, could it be that…”
“Two famous Gui Le’s qin players…” Chu Beijie asked in a deep voice, “Who’s the other one?”
“It’s one of Jing-An Ducal Residence’s maids, family name, Bai.”
Chu Beijie closed his eyes and when he opened them again, there was a new light in them. A single phrase left his mouth, “Research her.”
Pingting only woke up when morning came.
Someone was kissing her shoulder.
Turning to the side, she saw a pair of intelligent black eyes and suddenly she remembered what happened last night. She hid her overheating face in the blankets.
“What’s done is done. No need to hide.” Chu Beijie smiled fondly at her hair. Seeing that she was still hiding, he laughed and playfully bit her shoulder.
“Ow!” Pingting jerked upwards, only to be captured by the waiting Chu Beijie, who planted a fierce kiss on her red lips.
“Hehe, the world’s most delicious breakfast.”
“What? From now on you must call me ‘husband’.”
Pingting narrowed her eyes, clearly displeased. “Who had agreed to marry you?”
Chu Beijie clamped her hand in his and looking intently into her eyes, he said in a very serious voice, “Marry me. Don’t ever leave me.”
Pingting felt as if she had been stabbed. She just stared.
Chu Beijie was really serious, “Don’t think about it. Come with me. I’m willing to follow you into hell and heaven.”
Hell and heaven? She raised an eyebrow and stared questioningly at him.
So strong, such pride, such dark eyebrows… isn’t he just the ideal guy for every girl?”
If he was by my side, my life would be a lot easier.
But she… but she had to go.
Tears began to brim in Pingting’s eyes. She turned away, refusing to let her tears flow.
Chu Beijie put his rough hand on Pingting’s cheek. “Hey, why are you crying?”
“I don’t know why I’m crying.” Pingting dried her tears and managed a wobbly smile.
The more she thought about it, the more it hurt, but she had already convinced herself that she needed to go.
What’s the point of missing him? She had to let go of Chu Beijie’s laughter, hurt, anger, and happiness. Master is in danger. I can’t just become a duchess for no reason.
Go, she had to go.
It was supposedly an auspicious year anyway.
She carefully studied Chu Beijie whenever she could. Being hugged by him always resulted in a sleepless night. However, the weather was bad in every way possible, and she could not fall asleep without clutching onto his warm hand first.
Sometimes, Chu Beijie’s deep sigh would pass by her ear and her heart would hurt.
She often wondered how he could possibly be so wild.
Politics, campaigns and blood battles. He even refused to rest in his dreams.
Had to go, she had to go. She had fallen into a life-claiming quicksand pit. It was difficult to move out of it, but she had to.
“October’sOsmanthus fragrance fills thy head…”
The sweet aroma filled her lungs and she glanced back. Though her heart was cold, she remembered Chu Beijie’s sweet smile.
Chu Beijie had whispered to her, “When spring comes, all the flowers here will be in full bloom. When that time comes, I’ll personally pick a flower for you every day.”
“I’m not beautiful, so wouldn’t I be shadowed by a pretty flower?”
“Fine. You can sing. Sing until the flower withers.”
The sound of Chu Beijie’s laughter filled the empty courtyard.
In her heart, Pingting wept with sadness.
When spring comes, when all the flowers here will be in full bloom, you will be in Dong Lin and where will I be?