Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol02 Ch34
The guards were vigilant while the maids were silenced. The huge secluded residence’s atmosphere became silent in just a day. Rather than simply the lacking of the coo pigeon sounds, it was more like the quietness of death.
No one coughed or talked loudly. Even walking was done on tiptoes. It seemed that at just a slight sound would instantly attract a storm of enemies from every direction.
Pingting was sitting in Chu Beijie’s office for the first time.
She methodically opened and read the scrolls of the related data in the pile on the desk. Several documents had Chu Beijie’s comments of approval. In regards to military affairs and errors, his tone was cold and harsh but those pertaining to the livelihood of people, the statements were more simple and good-natured.
Occasionally there’d be one or two separate documents which appeareded to be poems Chu Beijie wrote. His familar handwriting was just like him, calm yet wild at the same time.
There was a white corner showing at the bottom of a scroll which may have been carefully hidden by its owner. Pingting’s sharp eyes sought it out. It appeared to be a neat, well-structured drawing.
The picture was lifelike, the strokes with proper depth.
It had trees, a lake, snow, qin and the person holding the qin, in a pale green dress. The wind swept wisps of her silky black hair as she smiled and talked.
That smile was so beautiful, so beautiful that even Pingting was momentarily drunk.
She continued to dreamily look at it for a little longer and couldn’t bear to look away.
“Miss Bai, there are only old documents and a few of the Duke’s belongings on the desk. As for the maps and the latest reports, I have them here.”
She only stopped her soul from floating happily on the four seas when she heard Moran’s voice as he hurried in. She quickly stowed away the drawing, planning to put it back where it originally was. She stopped, grinded her teeth and hid the parchment in her arms.
She looked up to find Moran holding a pile of things.
“This is the personal letter that the King sent to the Duke to hurry him back to the capital.” Moran rolled open the private, golden yellow scroll with tassels.
Pingting lowered her head to read it carefully. “Yun Chang and Bei Mo have combined forces? Ze Yin has left, leaving only Ruohan and Sen Rong. I reckon Ruo Han is better, but Yun Chang…” A familiar name suddenly jumped into her view and made her feel momentarily dizzy. She blinked and tried to read it more clearly, yet that familar name that prickled her heart did not change the slightest on the scroll.
A thorn pierced at her heart.
Pingting’s face paled and she slowly sat on the chair. Her voice was full of disbelief. “He Xia is currently being hunted by the King of Gui Le. How is he able to command Yun Chang’s army to threaten the Dong Lin’s borders?”
Moran couldn’t help feelh a little awkward as he explained, “He Xia married Princess Yaotian hence becoming the Prince Consort of Yun Chang and possessing the power to command Yun Chang’s troops. Everyone under the skies knows this fact but your residence…The Duke said that Miss Bai no longer has any connection to He Xia therefore refused to let you know.”
He glanced at Pingting whose pale face was as gleaming as snow.
So that was it.
He Xia had married.
He Xia’s wife was the Princess of Yun Chang.
He Xia had used his marriage.
It turned out that he refused to let go of her.
Or perhaps, he refused to let go of Chu Beijie.
Everything now fell into place, accompanied with the heartache of interpretation. No matter how intelligent, she could not undo the inextricable knots of her heart.
Pingting remained silent, quietly rolling up the handwritten letter of the King of Dong Lin. She put it aside and slowly mouthed, “The battle at the border is unlikely to happen.”
“How does Miss know?” Moran asked incredulously.
Pingting softly shook her head. “Because He Xia is already here. The main advisor is not on the border’s battlefield, therefore how could there be a battle there?”
Moran’s expression changed and lowered his voice. “Please do not joke, Miss. This is Dong Lin territory. If He Xia enters here, then wouldn’t Dong Lin have been defeated already?”
“What victory or defeat? It is simply an advantageous deal to both parties. Without the the King of Dong Lin’s support, how could He Xia bring his troops to this place?” Pingting’s smiled a bit as she slowly swaggered to stand from the chair.
Her opponent was actually He Xia.
He was the only other famous general that could rival Chu Beijie. Back then, because of his existence, even Dong Lin could not easily attack Gui Le. Chu Beijie had to spend a lot of effort to plot conflict between the House of Jing-An and the King of Gui Le in order to drive him away from Gui Le.
He Xia’s thoughts were always careful, always ensuring a tightly woven trap existed before making decisions such as unwittingly surrounding the enemy. He would then suddenly attack at the last minute, not letting the enemy have the slightest possibility of escape.
And today, he used his thundering tactics to try obtaining Bai Pingting.
Pingting’s heart was bitter. She really wanted to cry, but her lips let out a trace of cold laughter instead. “Take away all the maps and topographical data, I don’t need to see them. If we were evenly matched, then we could possibly still struggle a bit. However, in our current situation, we have not one chance of victory.”
Her cold eyes glanced at Moran and her voice was calm and collected. “Even though we have no chance of victory, we may not lose.”
Not caring about Moran’s puzzled face, Pingting saunted out of the office and stepped down the stairs.
She quickly headed for the residence’s entrance,her footsteps gradually slowed down halfway. She seemed to have another thought. Taking a different course, she turned back towards her own room.
Zuiju and Hongqian were waiting nervously. Seeing Pingting walk towards them, they hurriedly walked out of the side room. They greeted her but did not know what to say.
Pingting observed them, knowing that no one could talk. Her heart was alarmed enough as is. There time was no time to comfort them, so she simply asked, “Who here has a crimson coloured dress?”
“I have one,” said Hongqian.
“Bring it over.” Pingting etered the room and found a comb, which she used to carefully straighten her silk strands of hair until it became one thrilling black waterfall.
Zuiju saw that she was combing her hair and approached her. “I’ll help you,”she offered, asking for the comb.
Pingting shook her head. “I’ll do it myself.”
Before the mirror, she slowly divided her hair into two sections. She wrapped a section around her finger and whirled it which soon became a black ring like a flower.
Pingting looked at the mirror and then her side view. She shook her head in dissatisfaction and let go, allowing her silky black hair to fall once more.
Just then Hongqian entered the room, with that crimson dress she found. She handed it to Pingting saying, “This is a crimson dress, but it’s very thin as it’s a summer dress.”
“That’s the exact colour.” Pingting took it over, stroked the fabric and noted it was indeed very thin. “Help me put it on.”
“How could you wear this on such a cold day?” Zuiju frowned, “I have a purple dress. Even though the colour isn’t the same at all, it is much warmer.”
Pingting dismissed the idea. “It has to be this colour.”
Her eyebrows rose slightly, not letting the others dare challenge her authority. They helped her into it. It was winter. Even if they were inside, Pingting still took off her undergarments, causing her to shiver wildly. Zuiju hurriedly draped a fur-lined coat over her, wrapping her from the outside.
Pingting gave her a look of gratitude and whispered, “I still need to do my hair.”
She refused Hongqian and Zuiju’s help and sat at the mirror by herself for a long time. Zuiju observed that her expression was full of concentration. While her ten fingers picked and pinched left and right around her hair. Gradually her small bun of hair had become several delicately blossoming black flowers. Both sides were perfectly combed and her hair fell softly on her tender white skin, completing the finishing touches to her appearance.
Hongqian was at one side, quietly watching. She sighed, “Although it’s pretty, it’s much too troublesome. Thankfully Miss is very dexterous. If it were me, perhaps it’d take much much longer.”
Zuiju too, couldn’t help commenting, “So pretty. It looks good with Miss’ face and eyes. It complements the natural temperament of Miss’ skeletal structural. It’s a hairstyle designed just for Miss.”
Slight colour returned to Pingting’s face with just their comments. She looked in the mirror and faintly replied, “It’s not combed very well as this is my first time doing it myself.” She stood up, thinking how terribly cold it was. She folded her hands against her coat to hide herself inside, away from the wind. She rolled her eyes once before straightening up and walking out the door.
Moran had been standing outside the small building. Seeing Pingting walk over, his expression fixed on her coat. Pingting was very thin. Even though the coat covered everything, he could still see that she was wearing a very thin layer underneath.
Pingting kept her hands inside the cloak. She raised her head to look at Moran but did not stop her footsteps. As she passed him, she whispered. “You, come with me.”
She seemed to have decided already, her footsteps without hesitation as she passed through several doorways.
Paranoia was rampant, real or imagined. The guards closely protected the residence and each held a sword while standing straight, eyes wide open. The concentration of their vigilance for movement had increased significantly, but as soon as they saw Pingting’s pear blossom-like figure, followed by Moran behind her, they couldn’t help look surprised.
Pingting stopped at the entrance, silently staring at the sturdy gate made of steel rods.
Although it was in good condition, it was definitely not enough to withstand one round of He Xia’s attacks. It was not one used by the army, so what were the chances of it surviving a siege’s weaponry?
Her fist was slightly clenched. No one noticed her shoulder slightly shaking. She took a deep breath of the icy air and closed her eyes.
When she opened her eyes once more, they were full of resolution.
“Open the gate.”
The guards were surprised and glanced at each other.
Moran quickly strode to her side. His lowered his voice, full of anxiety. “Miss Bai…”
“You’re also a battlefield veteran. This place will not last. Rather than having He Xia attack his way in, it’s better to just welcome him in.” She smoothly articulated every word, like crystal raindrops patterened on every guard’s hearts.
The most surprising thing, however, was that the rain that fell washed away the dust in their hearts. Everyone was no longer worried about the outcome of failure and restored the calm composure they had before Chu Beijie.
“Open the door.” She commanded softly once more.
Everyone remembered her proud, straight back view.
They removed the heavy horizontal bolt. The door slowly swung open with a series of loud creaks. Bit by bit, the patch of nothingness that lay beyond the residence, the snowy mountains that gleamed in the sunlight, appeared before their eyes.
Pingting stood in the middle of the entrance, greeting the wind. A gentle light flickered in her eyes as she gazed at the trees and forests ahead. There was an expression difficult to put to words.
The House of Jing-An of the past was so far away yet so close.
Like how her bare feet was separated only by a thin layer of soil from the warm air of the quiet underground.
If one were to gently dig away this thin layer of soil, the air would gush out.
It would gush into her hair, her body, her lips, her flowing blood, her organs, her every pore until they would be warmed and pained at the same time.
Her expression shifted toward the horizon. Who still knew the direction of Gui Le? Who still remembers the green tiles of the Jing-An Ducal Residence?
Dear Duchess, Master’s troops are in the snowy mountain forest opposite of here.
With just one order, the scene would become one of bloody rivers and death, a point of complete heartlessness to the point of no return.
A cold wind blew past them. Pingting turned away her gaze and looked at Moran.
She grinded her teeth slightly but her eyes held no hesitation. “On the highest point of this gate, raise a white flag.”
She was just like Chu Beijie. When she had decided something, no one could change her mind. Moran solemnly nodded.
Everyone knew without outside help, the residence would be captured sooner or later.
Captured or surrendered was simply the same thing.
The snow-white flag of shame slowly rose towards the highest point of the entrance. It unfolded in the force of the north wind, flapping a sound like cries of dissatisfaction.
Pingting took off her heavy coat, revealing her bright red dress.
Her red dress contrasted her white skin. She stood in her snow, the dress flapping exciting and beautiful.
Not just Moran but perhaps even Chu Beijie had never seen such a stunning Bai Pingting before.
Just by standing there wordlessly, she had already sucked away the energy of all nature, emptied all sights of the sky and earth.
Grief, concern, unspeakable thoughts of heartbreaking sadness, and the slightest trace of touching warmth were hidden in the depths of her eyes.
Her gaze rested on one place, in the forest mountain not too far away.
The branches were covered with a thick layer of snow, like a silver blanket. The pure white reflection gleamed back at everyones hearts, which were contrarily full of depression and frustration. Just how many enemies lurked over there?
With just one battle drum, perhaps thousands of soldiers would surge forward, or perhaps millions would overwhelm them.
But Pingting’s gaze did not contain fear or anger.
Her expression was surprisingly gentle. The familiar people were there. The people she had been punished with, spent nights guarding with, studied with, admired snow with and played qin with were all people she got along well with.
Her gaze tempted the crowd’s like magic. They all turned to the same direction as she, all eyes fixed on the mountain forest.
At first, no movement could be detected in the distance. Gradually, dozens of strong warriors popped out of the snow. They parted silently in the middle, allowing a tall handsome figure behind them to slowly move forward.
Dashing; like a star.
His lips did not move but still seemed to be laughing.
Unlike Chu Beijie’s, his handsome face was a less angular but more gentle and romantic.
Yet his hand the held the sword, firm as Chu Beijie’s.
From the moment he appeared, Pingting’s eyes didn’t ever waver, just like his gaze that remained on Pingting.
He Xia leisurely ambled towards Pingting. In the snow, he left lines of footsteps of equal length.
Moran’s hand was clenched on the hilt of the sword, eyeing him like a hawk much like the other guards. His back was hunched as if prepared to use the fastest speed and most ruthless force to attack him at a moment’s notice.
A few trusted confidants wearing casual clothing accompanied He Xia. They protected him from both sides. Every time He Xia took a few steps, the archers would alternate forwards and pull their bow towards the thousands of people around Pingting. They posed but did not fire.
Once the two parties grew close enough to exchange blows, He Xia stopped. He was before Pingting, close enough for her to see the complex struggle and oppression in his glittering eyes.
The cold wind froze the air to ice, freezing the distance between them. He could not take one step forward nor one step back.
It froze their bodies, just as much as it froze their words. It seemed to freeze the taste of smoke as well as the House of Jing-An’s past.
He Xia had not considered the mixed feelings and the pain in her eyes when he stood before Pingting.
“Look, Master.” In the end, Pingting broke the silence. She smiled openly and pointed her slender fingers at herself. “Isn’t it pretty?”
The crimson dress was particularly eye-catching against the pristine whiteness of the snow. This spotless white jolted him back to the tranquil Jing-An Ducal Residence, when a Pingting of around thirteen ran towards him on snow. Her crimson dress seemingly had left wide traces on the snow. She had pouted at him, who was reading in a pavilion. “Master is a liar. This colour is terrible as a dress. I will never wear this again as it’s both silly and old-fashioned,” she had said while walking away.
“Don’t go! It’s very pretty, extremely pretty. I’m not lying! Pingting, Pingting, don’t go. Let me draw you.” He immediately jumped into the snow, stopping her. He cheerfully laughed, “Just one drawing. When you see it, you will know I did not lie.”
The snow remained.
Yet the Jing-An Ducal Residence has been reduced to ashes.
He Xia took a deep breath. “You hate wearing crimson red the most.”
“But Master likes me wearing this colour the most.” Pingting quietly gazed at the hem of the bright dress. She whispered, “Do you still remember the crimson dress I wore in the snow that time?” Her voice was like silk, distant and faraway, befitting of the endless number of stories they shared.
“I remember.” He Xia sighed nostalgically. “I also know that right now, you’re wearing one for me.”
He sighed softly, took off the thick mink cold around his shoulders and stepped forward.
Almost all of the two parties’ men were suspicious by this act. The arrows on their strings were nearly whipped forwards.
Yet all he did was gently place the coat on Pingting’s shoulder and placed a palm on her cheek, warming her like he used to.
“Look, it’s frozen stiff.” Even the smile in his lips was the same.
Pingting obediently allowed him to dress and warm up her pale red face. She then heard He Xia murmur, “Why must you do this? Would I not come to see you even if you did not wear this colour? Am I really that heartless that I would completely forget our fifteen years of friendship?”
He studied her pityingly and raised his hand to slowly loosen her hair, letting the strands fall. “You have never combed your hair yourself before. Even if it’s similar, the way I combed it back then was not like this.”
Everyone’s eyes were watchful.
One was the Prince Consort of Yun Chang, the other was the woman of the Duke of Zhen-Bei.
To the observers, this situation was both pure and beautiful as both had the best memories tucked in the depths of their heart. A place that once held no fear had been shattered with just a cough, leaving them with the fragments of reality.
The past and the current seemed to fall.
It seemed that Pingting was still his maid when they rode galloping horses together, dined together and played ridiculously pointless games together. The soothing yet fragile frame, coupled with her crystal clear eyes and her smiles pleased him since childhood.
At any time, all he had to do was just yell, “Pingting! Pingting!” which would then set off a series of calls in the ducal residence to summon Pingting. Pingting would then hurriedly come after hearing the summoning. She’d look up, her eyes clear and bright and he’d hear, “What’s wrong? I’m busy and don’t have time to be your model.”
As for Chu Beijie, so what about Chu Beijie?
How could he steal away her soul, her heart and their fifteen years of friendship in just a few, countable days?
“Pingting, I miss you.”
“The three hundred thousand soldiers that pressured the King of Dong Lin to transfer Chu Beijie were sent just for you.”
“How is Chu Beijie treating you? He left you just because of a King’s command.”
“He’s not good to you at all, so why lower yourself to him? Wouldn’t you be happy if you live the way we used to?”
He Xia pointed at the trusted elite soldiers behind him. “I have brought these soldiers through the ends of the earth here and endured attacks. Pingting, you understand what this means right? I’ve never wanted to harm you.”
“Does Master mean that you would like me to go with you?” Pingting’s expression drifted as she leisurely asked.
“Do you not want to?”
“How could I?” Pingting’s gaze shifted towards the white flag raised high up which was probably the first sign of disgrace on Chu Beijie’s property. “The white flag has already been raised, so what could Pingting possibly say?” She chuckled softly and glanced at He Xia, her face sideways to him. “Would you like to take away the person? Or would you like to take away the heart?”
He Xia gave a fleeting expression of hurt. He lowered his voice, “Both.”
A trace of a sad, bitter smile escaped from her beautiful lips. Pingting sighed, “Master, how much of this is really for Pingting? You don’t want to use force on me because you want to deliver a bigger blow on Chu Beijie. If he knew that I willingly parted with you, this would mean a much greater loss than losing a battle at the borders to him.” She leisurely sighed a few more times. Her tone firmed, “Fine, as long as you promise me one thing, I will willingly come with you.”
He Xia had been listening to her elegant voice and was surprised at this. He immediately asked, “How long would you like to wait?”
“Pingting, Chu Beijie won’t come back.”
“If so, I will go with you.” She lifted her index finger to her mouth and bit viciously down on it. Her bright red blood dripped onto the snow and spreaded like plum blossoms suddenly blossoming.
“I, Bai Pingting, swear to the sky that if the Duke of Zhen-Bei does not arrive by the sixth, will willingly go with He Xia, the Prince Consort of Yun Chang. If I violate this oath, then I shall die without proper burial.”
All of the men present on the two sides listened to her resounding oath and couldn’t help feeling impressed.
A battle was looming with the presence of soldiers and He Xia’s identity of importance that was a threat to the country meant that the sooner they left, the better. Regardless of strength, the Duke of Zhen-Bei’s men had already raised a flag, so Bai Pingting should just go with them. Why wait for two days?
No one sane would agree to these conditions.
He Xia’s voice remained prideful however. He nodded, “Fine. I’ll come get you on the sixth.”
Moran saw him turn away to leave, and without hesitation, beckoned the guards to protect. As the enemy’s arrows remained pointed towards the residence, they retreated.
He watched them gradually retreat back to the forests before realising the hand on the hilt of his sword was soaked with sweat.
Snow covered the vast earth before them, empty and bleak.
Pingting just stood there, staring at the direction where He Xia disappeared.
“Miss Bai?” Moran took a step forwards, his words a loud whisper.
Pingting turned towards him, her eyes almost as clear as crystal. There was a faint sad smile on her lips. “Fifteen years of friendship can only be exchanged for the time of two days.” She didn’t move, just raised her head and looked towards the east. In a soft voice she asked, “From his words, it seems that the Duke will not be able to hurry back by the sixth. What do you think?”
He Xia hesitated and replied, “He Xia seems to be very sure. Perhaps the King is helping in the capital. If that’s the case, I’m afraid…”
“But being the Duke he is, who could stop him if he really wanted to return?” Pingting’s tone was relaxed as she whispered, “If he really has me in his heart, then he will definitely rush back by the sixth.”
He had to come back.
Alcohol, women, power or force could not stop him.
As long as he remembers our promise, then he would definitely come back to see me.
Zuiju accompanied Hongqian inside the courtyard, their hearts skipping every few beats. They saw the white flag being raised in the distance. Hongqian, whose face was as white as paper, reluctantly snooped around a little, listening carefully for any sounds.
Not one battle cry could be heard.
It seemed that even the wind had been intimidated and was afraid to make any sounds.
They had waited until the strings of their heart felt like snapping before they saw Moran accompanying Pingting back inside. Pingting was as pale as white jade with a trace of exhaustion. The coat on her shoulders was no longer the pure white one she had been wearing when she left but a dark mink. The two then slipped quietly inside. As Pingting was not speaking, Zuiju didn’t say anything either as she brought hot tea for her or when helping her to sleep comfortably. When all this was done, she looked at Moran before lifting the door curtain to go outside.
“What’s going on? I saw the white flag.” Zuiju asked as she opened the doors to look at the mountains. She had a special status as she was an old friend to Moran.
Moran frowned and reported the events one by one.
The development had been surprising. Although it should’ve been impossible, Bai Pingting had gained the time of two days.
When Zuiju heard that He Xia had immediately agreed, her eyes were suddenly bright. She breathed in deeply and slowly sighed. “No wonder people say that Gui Le’s Marquess of Jing-An is the only person that is comparable to our Duke. Such a hearty personality! Doesn’t it make you wonder why he doesn’t teach Yun Chang’s Princess to handle military affairs properly?”
Yet this tactic was one that only Bai Pingting could propose and only one that He Xia would agree to.
Apart from those two, regardless of who was exchanged for another, it would have been an impossible situation.
Moran’s thoughts remained full of worries. He frowned, “Miss Bai is fairly relaxed and says that Duke can definitely return by then. But what if the Duke is delayed over there, what should we do then? With the current assets in He Xia’s hands, even if we put out lives at stake to fight, we will still be unable to rush out with Miss Bai.”
Zuiju was silent for a long time but argued back, “Even if you could rush out with Miss Bai, Miss Bai wouldn’t want to go with you. He Xia is risking death by granting her wish, so how could she betray the person she swore to? Not to mention…” She sucked her lip, staring down at her embroidered shoes for a long time. Her voice was a little sad, “Besides, why should she stay here if the Duke doesn’t really see her as important and doesn’t hurry back?”
That romantic, exquisitely carved Bai Pingting was not an ordinary person.
She could take a hundred times more pain but could not stand sadness.