Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol02 Ch46
In the early morning, orange light filtered through the thick layers of clouds, causing a little haziness.
The sound of hooves shattered the tranquillity as it hurried on the snow-covered path.
Bada, bada, bada bump…
A horse came from afar and the military flag of emergencies had been placed on its back to ensure it was untampered on its journey.
“Open the door! Hurry, open the city gates! The Dong Lin army has withdrawn! The Dong Lin army has withdrawn!”
The messenger had his head raised as he yelled at the closed gates, excited joy hung in his words despite his fatigue.
The guards at the city gates strained their ears in disbelief. They peered down, asking incredulously, “What did you just say, Bro?”
“Hurry up and open the gates! I’ve got to report it to the Senior Official. Dong Lin has withdrawn!”
“The Dong Lin army has withdrawn! Dong Lin has withdrawn! The war is over!”
The heavy city gates emitted a deep rumbling sound as they slowly opened. The news of the Dong Lin army’s withdrawal seemed to have acquired wings as it swept through the air of the capital of Yun Chang, sweeping the unease from everyone’s heart.
“Senior Official, Senior Official! The army of Dong Lin has withdrawn!”
Although he had long mentally prepared for himself, the elderly and experienced Gui Changqing couldn’t help abruptly sitting up from his bed. “Have they really withdrawn?”
“Yes, the Princess herself went to bargain with Chu Beijie, and soon after, the Dong Lin army withdrew.” The messenger was kneeling as he clearly and simply reported the events. “My army has sent out a significant amount of spies to closely monitor the trends in the Dong Lin army’s movement. There is nothing strange at all. They really are withdrawing.”
Gui Changqing dressed in the clothes that his servants had brought forth while asking, “Where is the Princess and the Prince Consort?”
“The Princess and Prince Consort are currently on the way, leading the troops back to the capital.”
“We must prepare a grand welcome.” Gui Changqing turned back, his expression full of delight. “Go, get the Official of Public Events to come here immediately, as well as all those officials in charge of procurement, ceremonies and entertainment. Wait…” He thought for a while before continuing his ordering, “In this battle between Dong Lin and Yun Chang, there were still a number of sons of Yun Chang that were injured or killed. Bring the official of military affairs, so we may talk about pensions and such.”
The manservant, who was to pass on the message hurriedly nodded, wrote them down, and turned to go.
Rumble rumble rumble!
A few rumbling, booming sounds came, shaking the dust from the corners of the roof. All of the people in the room were shocked by this and even Gui Changqing’s expression changed. “What on earth has happened in the capital? Go check!”
Not long later, the manservant quickly returned from task. “Report to Senior Official, the news of the Dong Lin army’s withdrawal has reached the capital. Everyone is awake and is drinking, singing and dancing on the streets. Firecrackers have been lit everywhere and the biggest firepowder shop in the capital has taken out the most precious, biggest firecracker of the capital. Those sounds just then were from that. Would Senior Official like to arrest them?”
Gui Changqing understood the moment he heard his words. He shook his head. “Arrest them for what reason? Who doesn’t have sons or younger brothers in the army? Now that the war is over, the peasants are happy, meaning that our worries can finally be put to rest too.” He then ordered, “Someone go and take out one thousand and two hundred silver coins to buy alcohol. Put it all out in the square at front of the Royal Residence so the peasants may take them freely.”
His servants laughed. “Senior Official, the cellar and warehouse of the Royal Residence is full to the brim. There is no need to use silver coins to buy alcohol from the peasants.”
“Those are all for when the Princess and Prince Consort return to the Royal Residence. I’m afraid our warehouse will not have enough for all those generals and soldiers. Such delightful news!” Thinking of war meant a significant loss to his country, yet there were no significant casualties in the end. Gui Changqing was extremely content. Gui Changqing had contributed to Yun Chang’s constant policy of no attack over the years.
Not long later, the messenger he had first sent out hurried back, report, “The Officials have been welcomed here and are currently waiting for Senior Official in the atrium.”
“Okay.” Gui Changqing quickly tidied his grand robes once more before stepping outside the door.
He took the main trail through the Senior Official Residence, bypassing the garden and planning continue to the atrium straight ahead. Happy, his steady pace became lighter. When he arrived by the pond with a thin layer of ice on top, he suddenly heard a familiar voice of his messenger straining his voice as he shouted, “Report! Emergency report from the army! Report!” The voice came closer as the person who yelled desperately hurried towards him.
Gui Changqing’s heart throbbed once.
Dong Lin’s army had already withdrawn, what other urgent news could the frontlines bring?
Had the situation changed?
“You can go,” said Gui Changqing, turning back to the servants behind him.
The messenger had already arrived before his eyes as he turned.
Gui Changqing stopped moving on the steps leading to a bridge. He lowered his voice, asking, “Perhaps the Dong Lin army feined withdrawal?”
This messenger had just gotten off the horse and had been puffing as he ran. He shook his head, “No, I am not from the frontlines.”
“Oh?” Gui Changqing’s anxiety cooled down slightly, “Say what news you bring then.”
“Report to Senior Official, the checkpoints on the way from my Yun Chang to Bei Mo keeps on being breached.”
“Checkpoints at Tonglin, Hemeng, Xiaoyang, Yunliao Mountains have all been breached. The intruder is not a soldier from Bei Mo but a man who comes from the direction of my Yun Chang.”
Gui Changqing asked in surprised, “A man?”
“Yes.” Even the messenger’s face was full of disbelief. “With just a horse, he consecutively breached four of Yun Chang’s checkpoints. The man came as a surprise. His skill with swords is very good. Because of the battle with Dong Lin, most of the elite level soldiers once placed on the checkpoints were deployed at the frontlines, so the remaining ones don’t dare to oppose this man.”
Gui Changqing thought for a moment, then asked, “General Chang is in one of the nearby towns. Had he not heard about this?”
“General Chang’s elite soldiers were also taken away by the Prince Consort. When he heard about this, he immediately dispatched all of his remaining men to crush this person. However, this man is too powerful and elusive. He appears to specialise in hiding his tracks by only appearing when there are less people at a checkpoint. He comes and goes calmly so when the main unit arrives, his shadows are long gone. General Chang couldn’t do anything about him, so he could only order the closure of all checkpoints to prevent them from being breached again.”
“Seeing how he as breached four checkpoints consecutively, it seems that it isn’t to reach Bei Mo.”
“No. It seems that every time that person breaches a checkpoint, he will always grab the leader asking the whereabouts of a woman. He always has a portrait in his hands, one of a woman. He only asks whether the people of every checkpoint whether they have seen that woman before and if they knew the direction she went. This person is very brave and well-built. If a normal person is placed before him not just his sword just the gaze is enough to chill their hearts.”
Gui Changqing already had some clue of what was happening by now. He smiled instead, “Do you know who this person is?”
The messenger was surprised and asked, “This man always wearss a black mask, obscuring his face. Only his eyes show. How could Senior Official know who he is?”
The corners of Gui Changqing’s lifted into a knowing smile. He held his hands behind his back as gazed up at the brightening sky. He sighed, lamenting, “Who else apart from him? He is no other than Chu Beijie.”
The news of Dong Lin army’s withdrawal had only just reached the capital, but Chu Beijie had already breached four checkpoints. It was a truly outrageous speed.
He must’ve set off alone immediately issuing the withdrawal order.
Chu Beijie’s anxiety was evident.
“Dong Lin’s Duke of Zhen-Bei?” The messenger was taken aback, his widen eyes stared for a long time before he exhaling. He shook his head, “No wonder, he’s so strong. I will leave the capital tonight and pass on this important news to General Chang.”
Military news were very important to the country. Only the very loyal and intelligent soldiers were allowed to be messengers. Their minds were many times much more flexible than ordinary soldiers.
The messenger was slightly hesitant before he continued, “I boldly make the statement that because Dong Lin’s Duke of Zhen-Bei led troops to attack my Yun Chang, he is the enemy of my Yun Chang. Now that he alone is in Yun Chang’s borders, this is a wonderful opportunity to eradicate this person.”
Gui Changqing had long thought about this. However, Chu Beijie was the worry of the other three countries too. No one wanted to touch him. Chu Beijie alone on his horse, going in and out of Yun Chang, was like an elaborately made, warm dessert placed in front of starving people. Although Gui Chang was wise and old, he struggled hard to restrain himself from the idea of immediately ordering the troops to capture Chu Beijie.
Chu Beijie would not be easy to capture.
In the snow-capped Songsen mountains, getting the army to surround a well-hidden famous general was an impossibly difficult thing to do.
It was difficult to capture a person like Chu Beijie and even harder to find a good chance.
Not to mention…
“What use is it even if the army is mobilised and kill Chu Beijie in one fell swoop?” Gui Changqing smiled bitterly as he shook his head, reluctantly letting go of this enticing idea. “If the news were to spread, the withdrawing Dong Lin army will immediately rush forwards. This time, they will undoubtedly battle until the very last soldier stands.”
This peace they had worked so hard on would be destroyed in a single moment.
This was something that Gui Changqing did not want to see at all.
The messenger had long heard of Chu Beijie’s fame and understood that Gui Changqing’s words were correct. He couldn’t continue to be bold and knelt down. “Messenger will leave the capital tonight. Does Senior Official have any other instructions?”
“Pass this message onto General Chang. Two things. One, don’t send any more troops to surround or attack Chu Beijie. This man is extremely aggressive and courageous. He is impossible to kill and will result in meaningless casualties amongst my Yun Chang’s soldiers. Not to mention, the war has only just finished so no need to further anger an enemy general. As for the checkpoints, he is only looking for a person, not intending to harm, so there is no need for resistance. Second…” Gui Changqing hesitated for a moment, the light in his eyes flashed. He lowered his voice, “Tell all the people at the checkpoints that no matter what, they mustn’t let Chu Beijie meet that woman.”
“Remember the second in your heart.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Gui Changqing watched him, unsatisfied, as he began to depart. His eyes uneasily swept across his surroundings. There was an empty lake beside him, a bridge covered with snow in front where no one could hide without being noticed. Gui Changqing asked the messenger again, “Are you familiar with the Songsen Mountains?”
“I have always been stationed on the Songsen Mountains and is very familiar with the terrain shape of the Songsen Mountains.”
“What is your name and what is your job title in the army?”
“Report to Senior Official. My name is Fanlu and is a Vice-General.”
“I will now raise you to Valiant General.”
“Eh?” Fanlu looked up, stunned. He realised from Gui Changqing’s serious expression that it was not a joke. His eyes brightened as he loudly replied, “Thank you, Senior Official! I will definitely do my best to repay Senior Official.”
Gui Changqing stepped down the stairs, helping him up as he whispered, “I have a third message, one only for you to hear. It shall come out of my mouth and only enter your ears.”
“Yes.” Fanlu sternly replied, his voice lowered as he turned his ears towards Gui Changqing.
“That woman may be around the Songsen Mountains and must never be reunited with Chu Beijie. You must find her quicker than Chu Beijie.”
“No,” Gui Changqing replied in a whisper, “no marks on her body that indicates a death due to humans.”
The cruel light that only soldiers glinted in Fanlu’s eyes. “There are wild beasts out there throughout the year. I know what to do.”
“Have you seen her drawing?”
“No, the drawing has only been seen by the guards Chu Beijie grabbed. However, there are very few women who dare to walk around on the Songsen Mountains.”
“Remember, she has a luminous jade hairpin on herself. That was the only ornament that never left her side since her departure from Dong Lin to Yun Chang.
Zuiju had forgotten how long she had waited in the darkness. Every minute, every second tugged at her heart. The suffering from it had already continued a few rounds in the darkness. She lightly held Pingting’s wrist, refusing to let go of it. It seemed that if she did, she would forever lose Pingting’s whereabouts. The air rumbled with the two’s breathing.
Dear God, please protect Miss Pingting and her child through this obstacle.
She felt a wetness on her face. The tears that came down filtered into her skin.
“When will the storm be over?” Zuiju tried very hard to make those words a little calmer, without making a tearful voice.
“Perhaps it’ll stop soon,” Pingting replied softly.
The calmer she was, the more chaotic Zuiju’s heart was. After an awkward silence, Zuiju’s voice was heard again. “I really hate the Duke,” she whispered.
“I hate the Duke to death, hate him.” Zuiju had her teeth clenched and grinded them.
She could only blame him and could only hate him. Why, when he had such great abilities, did the woman he love suffer like this?
“It’s all the Duke’s fault. It’s all his fault. Aren’t men supposed to protect women? Should the woman they love not be protected in the palm of their hand?” The more she thought, the angrier she became. The more she spoke, the more agitated she became.
Pingting sighed once and took Zuiju’s hand in hers. She stroked it, calming her down. “Zuiju, don’t say any more.”
“He should be here. It’d be great if he was the one here with you.”
The words that should’ve never been said came flooding out, rapidly bringing a silence to the narrow space. Zuiju only suddenly realised that she must have been driven crazy by the darkness and the storm outside.
Chu Beijie, if Chu Beijie were here, then what was this storm? His shoulders were very broad and could shield Pingting from the harsh weather.
“Miss, I…” Zuiju secretly regretted it. “I shouldn’t’ve mentioned him.”
“You’re right.” Pingting sadly replied. “It would be great if he were here.”
It would indeed be great if they could not be parted, even if the highest power tried to tear them apart.
The storm hid the daylight. The Songsen Mountains had become a patch of gloomy white. The wind began to howl, hitting hard against the rocky cliffs, producing a sharp whistling sound of unsatisfaction.
Chu Beijie sat in a gap between the rocks, stroking the precious sword in his hands.
He had spent almost all his life marching to war and seen storms a hundred times more terrible than this one. He had immediately secured the most sturdy cave against the storm upon entering the mountains.
The storm held no place in his heart. He silently waited for it to pass. Once the wind stopped, he would immediately go down the mountain and attempt to cross the Suyang checkpoint again.
Suyang was the weakest defended checkpoint of Yun Chang. If Pingting wanted to go to Bei Mo, she would most likely choose to cross there.
Perhaps Pingting would cross the Suyang checkpoint today.
But what if today was still without result? The depths of Chu Beijie’s eyes began to dim even more.
In these past few days, he had consecutively breached four of Yun Chang’s checkpoints but no one at all of them had seen Pingting before. Could it be that Pingting hadn’t headed for Bei Mo?
This made him feel very worried. If she stayed in Yun Chang, then even if Princess Yaotian was willing to free Pingting, He Xia would most likely not. He Xia would send out pursuing soldiers and perhaps arrive in a day or two.
Deafening thunder came from the sky, and the blood red lightning seemed to strike Chu Beijie’s heart, piercing a gaping wound in his chest that caused everything that flowed out to plummet into the endless darkness. His body felt empty, except for the anxiety and distress that filled his heart.
Pingting, where are you?
Are you and our child in the mountains, in the snowstorm, somewhere on the bumpy road?
I only want to put my arms tightly around you, my body blocking yours from the howling snow.
If you allow me to do that much, I will be the happiest man most beloved by the gods.
“Where are you? Where on earth are you?” Chu Beijie gazed at the scabbard. The flowery pattern on it reminded him of the golden hairpins that swayed on Pingting’s hair.
At that moment, he deeply desired to feel Pingting’s warmth, to look at her calm, demure smile once more.
The howling of the wind began to fade. The earth had darkened, unlike before, indicating the prelude to the end of the snowstorm.
Chu Beijie’s expression jolted. He suddenly lurched upwards.
If he was unable to find any news on the Suyang checkpoint, then it meant that Pingting had already found another way to go to Bei Mo.
And he would not hesitate going towards Bei Mo.
Even if he travelled to the end of the world, he had to find Pingting.
Zuiju almost thought she wouldn’t be able to last to the end of the snowstorm. She had prayed and begged to the heavens in all sorts of ways and although Pingting’s pulse remained unstable, at least it didn’t get worse.
“It seems the snowstorm is about to end.”
In the darkness, she heard Pingting sigh in what seemed to be relief. “Really?” She had been sitting up with a straight spine the a longest time. It suddenly gave way like an exhausted man that had struggled with his last breath until he collapsed, reaching his destination.
“Miss!” Zuiju cried in panic.
Pingting barely managed to hold herself up. “Don’t worry.” Her tone was very weak.
Zuiju stretched out a hand, wiping away a forehead of cold sweat. “Does your chest feel stuffy?”
“Yeah,” uttered Pingting.
“The snow is about to stop.”
Pingting gently twisted her body a bit and revealed the entrance. Water had not been poured over it, so it had not formed part of the solid ice block. A corner of the clothing on the roof had fallen over the entrance. It was full of frozen condensation from the snowstorm. Pingting forcefully pushed at it, but the clothing and ice did not make even the slightest sound. After another push, a little light began to stream inside. Although it was just a little light, it was much more than the complete darkness before. Zuiju and Pingting instantly shivered twice.
It was indeed cold, but the snow had almost stopped. The fierce sound of snapping twigs in the wind gradually quietened down. Finally, they completely opened the entrance and wriggled outside.
The tent of ice, that had protected them through the catastrophe, gleamed crystal clear under the sun. It was so small that it was difficult to imagine that it had allowed two adults to escape the snowstorm.
The cold air flooded into their noses, bringing in the freshness unique smell of the mountain forests. They had somehow managed to survive and see the light before them, the meaning of life valued more to them. Their spirits quickly brightened.
“Miss, let’s continue on our way.”
“Allow me to check your pulse again. Does your chest still feel stuffy?”
Pingting shook her head. “It’s better.”
Zuiju studied her, hesitating for a moment.
Pingting was right. The snow broke a whole tree trunk, not to mention the bag which blew to somewhere far away long ago. They no longer had needles or herbs prepared before climbing the mountain.
Zuiju worriedly asked, “Should we still continue?”
“I hope God continues to bless us and let us find some herbs. Without silver needles, pine needles can do the trick for now.” Zuiju then continued, “You sit here for a while. I’ll go look for some pine needles. After a few pricks, you’ll be able to endure your uncomfortableness for a little longer.”