Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol02 Ch38
He Xia was standing before the table, calmly rolling out the latest report from the army. He turned to see his wife.
“Don’t worry, Princess. The Dong Lin army has been subjected to a long period of war and have depleted forces. Yun Chang is completely fresh and has been prepared for a long time.” He Xia’s voice was relaxed. He smiled faintly.
Princess Yaotian gracefully sat down onto the table, studying her husband who just returned from a long absence. His face was as handsome as the first time she’d met him. His calm tolerance remained the same except for a little more invisible satisfaction in his expressions.
“Are we really going to war? During the alliance with Bei Mo’s forces, Prince Consort said that it was just a way to force the enemy to stop so they would realise my Yung Chang’s superiority without having direct clash with the enemy army.”
He Xia carefully studied the expression on Yaotian’s face. His softened his voice, “Is Princess afraid?”
Yaotian sighed faintly, “Chu Beijie is a famous general and Dong Lin’s army is at work. How could I not be afraid seeing so many Dong Lin troops camped at our border for so many days? Not to mention, even if Bei Mo is an ally to Yun Chang, what if they do not keep their promise and attack us while we are held up at Dong Lin’s border?”
“He Xia apologises for worrying Princess.” He Xia stepped forward and lovingly touched his wife’s face. His voice was attractive like a magnet as he whispered, “Please place all of Princess’ fears and worries to He Xia. He Xia promises not to let Princess feel even the slightest concern.”
The pendants of her heavy coronet worn at her forehead blocked a portion of the light in Yaotian’s eyes. She straightened her neck and studied the depths of He Xia’s eyes. The light shimmered in her own as she sweetly smiled, “With Prince Consort here, how could I worry?” She lowered her head but was stopped by He Xia’s fingertips resting on her chin.
She couldn’t help but involuntarily raise her head bit by bit alongside those fingertips. A warmth met her lips and the heat swelled. In one warm breath, he entered her lips and between her teeth.
The soft kiss gradually increased.
Yaotian was dizzy with the kiss, her blush spreading past her ears. She finally managed to wriggle away from He Xia, her heart anxious to jump out of her chest. She raised a hand and tidied the loosened strands, looking at a distant mirror where she saw that her ears had reddened. She gave He Xia a look of mock resentment and anger, murmuring, “Seriously, Prince Consort. This is the Royal Residence, not the Prince Consort Residence. If the maids saw this, how could I face them?”
He Xia heartily laughed, “Spare me, Princess. He Xia left Yun Chang too long and has dearly missed Princess so he became a little uncontrollable there.” He lowered his voice, “Would you like to come tonight to the Prince Consort Residence? The Dong Lin army is currently assembling so I will have to leave for the border in a few days to deal with Chu Beijie. I don’t know how long this battle will take and I have no idea when I’ll be able to come back to see Princess.”
Yaotian’s ears were still steaming from his warm breath, and her heart was thumping crazily. She lowered her voice, “Isn’t Prince Consort tired? You only returned late last night to the capital and entered the Royal Residence early morning next day. You certainly did not have a good sleep.”
Their private room’s air suddenly seemed heavy when they heard the slight sound of footsteps from the other side of the curtain.
A silhouette appeared and stopped behind the curtain. Luyi respectfully said, “Report to Princess, the Senior Official would like to see you.”
“Welcome him in.” Yaotian instructed. She turned to look at He Xia, her smile like honey. A frown was spread on her well-groomed eyebrows. “It’s all Prince Consort’s fault for making my face so red. What will the Senior Official think now when he sees me?”
“Just let him see you. How could a wise man such as the Senior Official not understand the relationship between a husband and wife?” He Xia gently laughed and went over to her. He whispered, “Princess hasn’t replied to Prince Consort whether she will come to the Prince Consort Residence.”
“The pain of longing.”
No matter how handsome the man, once they are free, they were monkeys women couldn’t deal with.
Yaotian was both angry and amused. She sucked her lip, “Since Prince Consort has returned, then I shall visit Prince Consort’s residence with excitement. But what would the officials think of my going since Yaotian is a girl? It seems…that I’d better find two beautiful, personal maids for Prince Consort.” She glanced slyly at He Xia.
He Xia’s expression did not change as he continued to smile while asking, “Then tonight, shall I prepare alcohol and desserts in the rear courtyard of the Prince Consort Residence?”
Yaotian hid her smile and returned his gaze. She stretched out her white hands, nudging his shoulder softly. “The generals are still waiting to report to Prince Consort. Go see them. Be careful not to bump into the Senior Official or she’ll whine on and on to Prince Consort.”
He Xia good-naturedly softly pinched her on the cheeks before taking a step back. He adopted a joking expression before he left, half-singing as he posed a bow, “Wish you the best, Princess.”
The curtain lifted loudly. Gui Changqing happened to walk in and saw him as he turned onto the porch.
They respectfully nodded to each other as the two passed each other. Gui Changqing turned and watched He Xia’s back view, full of confidence and strength. He stayed silent before entering through the bead curtains through the innermost section, greeting Yaotian.
“No need for excessive politeness. Please have a seat, Senior Official.”
Luyi served up the tea specially prepared for Gui Changqing. Gui Changqing took it and drank a mouthful before raising to look at Yaotian’s face that could not conceal the sweet joy she felt. He opened her mouth and laughed, “No wonder all the officials say that one can easily deduct whether the Prince Consort is in the capital from the Princess’ expression.”
Gui Changqing had been serving for many years and had watched over Yaotian as she grew up. He was like a father to her. Her laugh made her feel indignant, “Even Senior Official is making a joke out of Yaotian?”
Gui Changqing adoringly looked into her eyes and restrained his laughter. He changed it for a serious tone as his voice serious, “Has Princess told Prince Consort yet?”
At this question, the smile suddenly disappeared from Yaotian’s face.
“Yes.” She slowly sighed, frowning, “He isn’t worried about the massive gathering of Dong Lin soldiers at all and has no intention of giving up Bai Pingting to stop the war.”
“Princess, if we really do clash with Dong Lin, the opposition will be led by Chu Beijie. Our army will be led by our Prince Consort, resulting in great loss to both sides. There is not the slightest benefit for my Yun Chang.”
“What can I do?” Yaotian frowned, “When talking about Dong Lin’s army, the Prince Consort didn’t even mention Bai Pingting’s name, suggesting that he clearly does not plan to settle things peacefully with Chu Beijie.”
Gui Changqing didn’t say anything. He moved the lid off the teacup and studied the ripples inside. He let Yaotian to rest her gaze on him for a long time before placing the teacup back onto the table with both hands. “Princess fell into Prince Consort’s trap. Sending out the main army and adventurously approaching the Dong Lin border was to simply sever Chu Beijie’s ties to the Royal House and therefore break them from using Bai Pingting.” He paused and looked at Yaotian.
“Please continue, Senior Offical,” Yaotian replied.
“Judging from Chu Beijie’s lack of grasp on the overall situation and his sudden preparations to attack Yun Chang, it is highly likely that he is no longer working alongside the King of Dong Lin, meaning our goals have been reached. Bai Pingting’s value has been lost too. It will do more harm than good for Prince Consort to continue to hold onto Bai Pingting.”
“Princess must not only be careful with the future but also the present.” Gui Changqing looked squarely in Yaotian’s eyes, lowering his voice, “The Prince Consort has currently arranged Pingting to live at his residence. I heard that in addition to instructing his servants not to let her leave, they were also told to treat her with the etiquette deserving of a mistress.”
The pendants on Yaotian’s coronet shook slightly. She avoided Gui Changqing’s gaze, pondering in silence.
Some time passed before Yaotian faintly replied, “Understood.”
As Gui Changqing left, Luyi came in to report, “Lunch has been prepared.”
“I’m not hungry; tell them to take it away.”
She dismissed Luyi and other maids in the room. She sat in the room alone, head bowed while deeply thinking in silence. Multicoloured lights scattered from the jewel curtains. They swayed with the wind, occasionally knocking into each other and resulting in a clear sound.
Yaotian raised a hand and took off the coronet on her head. She held it in her hand and studied it briefly before putting it on the table. She removed the few remaining ornaments from her hair, letting her jet black hair spill down, covering her shoulders. She looked into the mirror. It seemed that her face had become a little sharper, emphasising her beauty.
She lifted the corners of her mouth to the mirror, testing out various smiles, each pretty in its own way. Yaotian laughed and placed the mirror on the table. “Luyi!” she called.
Luyi hurried from the porch. “I am here, what would Princess like?”
“I want a bath.”
“Yes, I will send orders to get it ready.”
A hint of relaxation was in Yaotian’s voice from behind the curtain. “Sprinkle some fresh petals of the qixiang flowers from the snowy mountains.”
As Luyi replied, Yaotian seemed to have another thought, thinking, “What is the name of the rouge that Histographer Houcheng presented me on my birthday last month?”
“Answering Princess, it is known as Fangniang, and is made from the petals of a very rare flower. The powder is very thin and evenly applies onto the face. The official that brought it up said that it could make your skin as soft as a new born child.”
Yaotian listened carefully, and replied “Hm”. She then instructed, “After the bath, bring the Fangniang so that I may try it.”
These commands were enough. Luyi went to prepare everything as wanted. Yaotian got up out of her seat, looking down at the long, bright, red-purple dress of a princess.
This was a dress specially tailored for her by Yun Chang’s best tailor. There were several flowers and birds on it that kept dozens of the Royal Residence’s seamstresses busy with embroidery for a whole month. The sleeves were very long. Silver-purple tassels hung at the edge from her feet, completing the look. It could not be more expensive or intricate than it was.
Excitement and pride flashed in Yaotian’s inky black eyes.
The two most famous generals in the world, the Marquess of Jing-An and the Duke of Zhen-Bei, would now compete.
She herself was the Princess of Yun Chang and was already He Xia’s wife.
Yet how did the Bai Pingting capture Chu Beijie’s heart?
Zuiju was the one who knew best what Bai Pingting looked like at the moment.
The two had come empty-handed and only had two changes of clothes. The way here had been bumpy. They were both tired and dirty. When they arrived at the Prince Consort Residence, everything seemed to have been prepared a long time ago. No instructions were needed to call everyday items since they were all within reach.”
Pingting’s bronze mirror laid at the table alongside the comb she used back at the Ducal Residence. She had a large closet of neatly folded clothes, all the colours that Pingting liked not a single error.
There were a few cases near the table. One had a guqin in it and another had an agate bowl full of small multicoloured pebbles that one could easily mistake for jewels.
The house was soaked with incense, carrying warmth, but was not stuffy.
A vase stood on the windowsill, filled with freshly cut white plum blossoms. A few unopened buds had been placed next to the blooming flowers.
It was so perfect that it was chilling.
It felt as if Pingting had lived there for a long time. It was even more chilling seeing Pingting appear to want to be there, wanting to live there forever.
He Xia had headed to the Royal Residence early in the morning, leaving behind two caged birds that were familiar with the new environment.
Pingting was in the back of the building. Her face no longer had the extreme distraught expression she when the moon passed half the sky, ending the sixth.
The expression that replaced was one of lazy leisure.
This strange leisure made Zuiju feel unable to be close to her.
Zuiju stood across the corridor, looking at her straight back. She knew that her insides had already snapped, yet couldn’t understand why she was able to stand so straight like that.
She sighed softly.
She couldn’t understand it, but apart from Bai Pingting herself, who else could?
Zuiju sighed a few more times. She wasn’t that far away from her. She could see her face clearly but couldn’t see her heart.
Across the corridor, Zuiju’s sighs seemed to bring another onset of unstoppable tears. She cautiously raised her hands and wiped the corners of her eyes. Pingting turned to her, beckoning anxiously.
Zuiju was stunned by this.
Ever since Pingting had spilled the medicine, fell to the ground and cried, she had become something soulless, a puppet or simply something inscrutable. She wouldn’t say a word, and there was no distance in her eyes. Zuiju hurried forwards, as she hadn’t seen such an energetic action from Pingting for such a long time.
Even though it was just a gesture, it was enough to bring joy.
Zuiju quickly walked through the corridor, hurrying to Pingting’s side. “Miss Bai, what’s wrong? Do you have any orders? Do you want to eat something?”
Pingting shook her head. She looked around to see if there were any outsiders watching before whispering, “It’s kicking me.”
The tiniest, almost-invisible gentle smile escaped from her pale face.
After several days of desolate grief and despair, this smile was the most beautiful Zuiju had ever seen in her life.
“Movement already?” Zuiju frowned and said, “You must have mistaken it, Miss. It’s not that old and it shouldn’t be able to kick at its current age.”
“There’s no mistake.” Pingting bit her lip, “It really is moving.” The slightest movement at that instant reminded Zuiju of the beauty that had impudently messed around in Chu Beijie’s arms.
An unexpected memory.
The first memory without sorrow that had come to mind after that desperate night.
The scent of plum blossoms had been scattered throughout the secluded residence after the burial of the Locked Away Goodies. Hongqian had ran off to somewhere unknown like usual while the guards stood, occasionally nodding and chatting. Moran’s expression was distant as usual, but he was a good-hearted, caring and gentle man.
The matrons in the kitchen sent meals over every day, affectionately offering a few complaints. They’d take away the food containers with satisfaction when seeing that Miss Bai had enjoyed the day’s meal.
Chu Beijie’s figure was also there, and Bai Pingting’s heart was there too. She would play qin and he’d quietly stand at one side. Raising his head, his eyes had a look of pleasure and love that would not separate them.
All set against the snowy backdrop, it was picturesquely beautiful.
Looking back now, Zuiju realised that that period of living in the secluded residence was something truly precious.
Slender fingers waved in front of Zuiju’s eyes, and she came back to earth. “Ah…Miss…” she said.
“I can’t stay here.” Pingting’s voice was soft, full of determination.
He Xia must not know about this child.
But the two were currently imprisoned. How could He Xia not realise that Pingting’s stomach had been growing day by day?
“Miss, the Duke will definitely come save us quickly.”
Zuiju regretted it the moment the words left her lips.
Pingting’s expression was like someone thumping down heavily on a river, stiffly frozen by winter, causing it to completely shatter.
She turned away and sat down on a stone bench of the courtyard. She lowered her head, not letting Zuiju see her expression. It was a while before she slowly said, “Zuiju, I beg you…”
Zuiju self-criticised herself for her loose tongue and hurriedly murmured, “Zuiju was wrong, I won’t mention that person in front of Miss again.”
Pingting then looked up at Zuiju and it was several moments later when she slowly raised her hands to her.
Zuiju took them and kneeled, raising her head. “Say no more, Miss. Zuiju understands.”
The two slender white wrists grasped each other, gripping tighter and tighter.
The snow whirled; the flakes fell like tears.
The guqin of the Zhen-Bei Ducal Residence had been damaged. The large palm that stroked her black hair no longer had its warmth.
One remained as the world’s precious sword that seemingly destroys, while the other became the red soul that swirls around the cold moon.
After the moon passed half the sky, her soul had been torn out of her bones and reduced to ash.
“One day, you will know what an excruciating heartache is.”
She already knew.
She knew from that moment.
The pain was not without reward as at least she had a little life in her belly. There was still one, in this thin body and broken heart.
Its heart may be small, perhaps not yet formed, but when it began to jump vigorously, it was something no one could stop.
“No matter what, prioritise protecting the child first.” Zuiju softened her voice, “Miss was subject to such a bumpy ride, through great anxiety and sadness. Now you must open up your heart and sleep well. I’ll get them to stew some rich medicine.”
“Absolutely not.” Pingting objected, “He Xia is proficient in medical knowledge too. He’ll immediately understand from whatever you prepare. The most important thing right now is to quickly leave.”
Zuiju’s eeyes brightened, “Has Miss already thought up of a plan?”
Pingting’s eyebrows fell to a frown. She shook her head lightly. “He Xia is not a normal person. It won’t be easy if we attempt to leave from his supervision…”
“We have to think of a plan.” Pingting’s eyebrows turned away, suddenly resting on the stone table underneath her hand.
On the side of the stone table, there were small words carved onto it – “Prince Consort Residence”.
The Prince Consort Residence of Yun Chang’s Prince Consort.
He Xia’s millitary influence in Yun Chang was all thanks to the two words of his title, Prince Consort.
Pingting carefully looked at the inscription. She released her tight frown. She sighed and mumbled to herself, “I wonder what kind of person the Princess of Yun Chang is like…”
From the rumours, the Princess of Yun Chang’s name was “Yaotian”.
As heavenly, dignified and beautiful as the spring flowers.
When she was still young, while studying with her Master, they had occasionally gone outside the residence to try new things.
They often went to Prince He Su’s Residence.
There they had often encounter the brothers of the Royal House laughing and chattering. Occasionally they would gossip about the affairs of Yun Chang’s Royal House and the general consensus were the same – they were pitiful.
Rumours had it that Yun Chang’s Royal Residence had the least number of beautiful residents in the Royal Residences of the four countries. Even the King and Queen were unable to be publicly affectionate. The only place in the entire Royal Residence where they could be together, was the Queen’s private quarters.
But when they were out of the little nest, no matter how intimate they were, they had to part ways and sit in their own respective sides.
“Pitiful, just pitiful. No wonder the King of Yun Chang only has a daughter.”
“With those conditions, they’re fortunate to even have a child.”
These noble’s children only understood a little of the society of adults but said the words loudly, tutting and sighing as they thought of their own, well-developed, open Gui Le. As long as the water filled their own cans, they were able to boldly shout out their feelings without a care for the rest of the world.
“The Princess sure has an unlucky life. In our Gui Le, when the Princess married, she could live in the Prince Consort Residence. The married couple are together everyday and can do whatever they want. Yun Chang is very different though. Even when the Princess marries, she remains in the Royal Residence, and only when she wants to watch the snow, flowers or moon, can she contact the Prince Consort and talk the night through.”
“Ha! Wouldn’t everyone know how many times she goes per month? Just count the number of times the Princess’ carriage comes.”
Pingting had stood by her Master, listening to their reckless remarks, embarrassed early on. She would then tug at Yangfeng, find a lush green willow tree in the courtyard by herself , choose a rock to sit in, and chat about girly things.
The past could not be recovered. Looking back now, everyone had changed.
Pingting was helpless, she had to look forwards. The Master who had chuckled softly about the pitiful Yun Chang Royal House was now the owner of Yun Chang’s Prince Consort Residence. How were their relationship? One was a Prince Consort from Gui Le and the other was Princess Yaotian who had stayed so deep inside her Royal Residence.
It seemed the time He Xia lead the troops to the border and into Dong Lin, surround the secluded residence and return from the battlefield with the loots of victory was worth several days of separation to the Princess.
Even if it was a short separation for a wife and husband, they were still newlyweds.
Did they miss each other?
If it was that person, he’d come back after a day. With a strength never seen before, he would force his way and cause several nights of chaos, forcing kiss after kiss despite her begging.
A pain jolted her heart, a barbed arrow that had already been embedded suddenly raging after being forgotten for so long. Pingting suddenly came back to her senses and used her fingers to pinch at her tender skin.
Don’t think about it.
You musn’t think about it.
Never think about it again!
She breathed in deeply, forcing the thoughts back to the three words, “Prince Consort Residence.”
He Xia hadn’t been in control of the military power for a long time and had yet to secure his status. He was definitely still trying to make his wife happy the best he could. The Marquess of Jing-An who had lost his home and place in Gui Le’s government had suffered enough. He undoubtedly understood the significance of the Princess’ support.
He Xia would use all of the tactics he could to capture the Princess.
Where else but the first night upon returning to the capital be spent?
Pingting was silent for a long time before turning to Zuiju. “Did He Xia enter to Royal Residence this morning to see the Princess?”
“After his bath, he carefully dressed before leaving. He probably went to see the Princess.” Zuiju thought for a little. “Of course he had to hurry to see her. No matter what, the Princess is the master of Yun Chang.”
She then saw the deep pondering expression on Pingting’s face whose eyes revealed a hatching plan. She then frowned as if some point was bothering her. Zuiju tentatively asked, “Has Miss thought of a plan? Is it something to do with the Princess?”
Indeed, it seemed that Pingting had encountered a problem through her thinking. She slowly shook her head and stared at Zuiju, thinking deeply again. She then said, “Do you have any prescription that can temporarily change my pulse so that He Xia wouldn’t know the truth when he checks? Just one night is enough.” She knew medicine well herself and knew such a task was difficult to achieve.
What herb could be effective but not harm the child in her belly? Since they were in captivity, whatever Zuiju wanted had to be approved by the Prince Consort Residence, meaning that He Xia would not suspect it.
Zuiju replied, “Is Miss testing my medical knowledge? Even my Teacher would not know, not just I.”
Pingting didn’t have much hope in that either. Her face remained sad. In a low voice she said, “This is the most important step. If we don’t think things through, then we will not be able to escape so easily.”
The corner of Zuiju’s lips suddenly lifted into a sly smile. “Although there is no such prescription, it’s not like I don’t have other methods. Give me seven silver needles. I promise, by tonight, He Xia won’t detect Miss’ fetal pulse.”
“Acupuncture?” Happiness danced into Pingting’s eyes.
Huo Yunan, Dong Lin’s genius doctor, specialised in acupuncture.
“However, it can be only done once. If done too many times, it will not be good for your fetus.” Zuiju’s words were frank, “Also, after the acupuncture is done, your pulse would not be as calm and regular as usual but slightly disordered.”
“That’s even better!” Pingting quietly clapped a hand onto the stone table, the white and black of her eyes contained about thirty percent of its original light. She lowered her voice, “I need He Xia to think I’m sick.”
“But the silver needles…”
“The silver needles are the easy part. He Xia has commanded the people of the Prince Consort Residence to treat me like a mistress.” Pingting’s eyes slowly turned and rested on the two probing maids standing across the pond. “If I tell them to get some, would they dare not to?”