Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol03 Ch66
The scarlet sun rose from the east of the capital.
The light replaced the gentleness of the moon, the dominating dawn. As if mocking everyone’s heavy hearts, it casted its light on the people, the capital of Yun Chang, as well as the raised flags of Yun Chang fluttering in the wind.
After today, the glamorous dances and sophistication of the famous Gui Le would cease to exist.
Under the shining blades of the Yun Chang army, the heavy city gates began to open inch by inch.
The King of Gui Le, He Su, brought along the Queen and other important officials of Gui Le behind him. The crown had been removed and shoes taken off, as they walked out of the gates. They were stopped from going any further, afraid of the soldiers’ long spears on the two sides of the road. The kneeling figures with tears in their eyes, struggling to restrain themselves from weeping, were the numerous peasants of Gui Le.
The country had been destroyed.
Everything was over.
The Jing-An Ducal Residence was gone in flames overnight, rapidly spreading the news of the deeply respected Marquess of Jing-An rebelling and being driven out of the country. Today, the Marquess of Jing-An returned, but their country had ended instead.
On the plains outside the Yun Chang capital, He Su stood before the Yun Chang army. He abandoned his supreme identity, kneeling before his enemy.
“He Su is a sinner, incompetently leading Gui Le, resulting in the peasants’ hardship. Since ancient times, treasures are only given to those with power, so He Su is willing to give the Great Seal of Gui Le to Prince Consort of Yun Chang, to represent surrender.”
His tone was solemn, every word squeezed out from the back of his throat. He Su held the Great Seal with both hands, slowly raising it as he passed it over.
A country heirloom, more important than thousands of gold.
He Su knelt as he lifted the Great Seal above his head, his arms slightly trembling.
He never once thought the huge Gui Le would be ruined in his hands.
During the last moments of his dying father, he secretly urged, “You have to be extremely careful when it comes to anything regarding the House of Jing-An.”
Indeed he had been careful, plotting immediately after ascending to the throne. He carefully arranged every movement, device, assembly set, and the ruthless burning of the Jing-An Ducal Residence to the last blade of grass. He pursued them hard, eventually killing the Duke of Jing-An and the Duchess of Jing-An, only leaving a He Xia behind.
Quite ironically, today, he finally realised the depths of what “extremely careful” meant.
The Queen and the thousand generals were pale, each looking as if their souls were lost, as they knelt behind He Su.
The Yun Chang army was neat and quiet, as their weapon blades gleamed harshly.
He Xia’s expression seemed refreshed, in high spirits. He held the reins in one hand as his gaze slowly looked down, glancing the Great Seal quite unexcitedly. The corners of his lips rose, “Put it away.”
One of his trusted soldiers answered, “Yes.” He got off the horse and came over.
He Su could only feel the weight in his hand lighten, realising the Great Seal was already placed in someone else’s hand. He felt Gui Le now truly belonged to someone else. The energy in his limbs vanished, almost causing him to collapse onto the ground.
Now that the country had fallen, how could he go see his ancestors?
But no matter how upset he was at that moment, he couldn’t not care about the overall situation, the life and death of the people behind him. In front of He Xia, he could only reluctantly bow, bearing the pain. “Please feel free to enter the capital, Prince Consort of Yun Chang and his troops. The Royal Residence has already been cleared, ready for Prince Consort of Yun Chang to use.”
He Su felt a strange feeling on his back. He knew He Xia was sitting on the horse, watching him condescendingly.
After a long time, he heard a familiar voice above his head, slowly saying, “Back when we studied together, I remember Mister say if the monarch of a fallen country wants to express their sincerity, they will generally personally serve the victor, following every command regardless of how brutal. I wonder if King is truly sincere towards He Xia?”
Unease rippled amongst the officials of Gui Le, He Su’s expression twisting.
Memories weren’t enough, as this was a revenge of hatred seeped in old roots. It seemed He Xia not only wanted his life, but also wanted to humiliate him in front of other people in every possible way.
He’s like a knife. I am the fish meat. My death is not enough, but…
He Su’s fists tightly clenched, hidden inside his sleeves. He lowered his head and gritted his teeth, “Please allow He Su to welcome Prince Consort into the city to show sincerity.”
“King…” The Queen gasped softly from behind, quietly beginning to sob.
The other elderly officials also began to cry.
“Don’t say any more.” He Su decided to cut off the queen, enduring the humiliation. He stood up from the ground, as if steeping on thorns, and began to step one by one towards He Xia’s horse. He reached out for the bridle.
He had yet touch the bridle when something suddenly lashed out in front, lightly stopping him. It turned out to be the whip.
He Su raised his head, not understanding, thinking that it was another way to make his life difficult.
He Xia was cold again, “Although I hate you, that’s all.” He waved his hand, raising his voice, “Enter the city! We won’t go to the Royal Residence, just to the Jing-An Ducal Residence.”
“Enter the city!”
“Enter the city!”
“Enter the city…”
The words were passed on from soldier to soldier. The intonations rose and fell, resembling a never-stopping echo.
The Yun Chang army began to slowly move into the capital of Gui Le like a massive beast that just awoke from its slumber.
He Xia sat on the horse, followed by the royal flag, surrounded by his soldiers. He Su and the thousands of officials painfully trudged behind them.
Once entering the city, the unfamiliar yet familiar feeling raged towards He Xia. This ancient city was the place he grew up in, played in its alleys and rode happily on its roads.
Gui Le, Gui Le’s Jing-An Ducal Residence, Gui Le’s Marquess of Jing-An.
Gui Le’s two qin players, Gui Le’s Yangfeng, Gui Le’s Bai Pingting.
How on earth did all of this happen?
No one could understand what He Xia felt.
This was the first time he’d formally went through the Gui Le capital gates after the Jing-An Ducal Residence fell.
He Xia had achieved his vow for revenge, but for some reason, he realised that this didn’t quench the pain and dissatisfaction he felt about the time lost from then at all.
He had the Gui Le capital. This capital no longer had the Jing-An Ducal Residence, no longer had the smiling faces of his parents, no longer had Pingting. Only He Su remained, becoming his enemy for life.
He had avenged and won a country, yet who did he have to tell this piece of great news?
Even Yaotian was no longer here.
The sound of hooves sounded once more, carrying to his former home. When he stopped, it seemed the flowers were crying and birds were startled. Only a pile of rubble remained of the demolished building.
“After the Jing-An Ducal Residence was destroyed by fire, it was abandoned.”
He Xia dismounted, gazing at the moss-covered entrance for a long time. Finally, he stepped forwards, slowly climbing up the familiar stairs, stepping over his home’s threshold.
The past was fresh in his minds. The scene was busy as guests were invited in.
His father was in the hall, commenting politics with officials, while his mother was surrounded by maids who chatted about rather interesting events and rumours in the Royal Residence. Occasionally, He Xia would hurry in from outside and his mother would stand up from the chair, asking from the other side of the curtain, “Xia’er, there are lots of people outside as it’s rather busy. Be sure to go out with some guards, so that you won’t take off with Pingting alone.”
“Understood. I won’t go outside then. Prince He Su has sent messengers, saying the Prince Residence has a Mister who will talk about the art of war. We should go.”
“Since it’s like that, you can go. Don’t ride your horse in the city as it won’t be funny if you fall. It’s better to sit in the carriage.”
“Also, if the art of war goes on for too long, and you have to eat at the Prince Residence, remember to come back…sigh…that child…”
She had yet to finish instructing. He Xia already excitedly rushed out the door. He looked for Pingting, not caring about what she was busy with, grabbed her hand, and ran. They’d bolt towards the horses at the gate, bringing down the whip until there was no longer any trace of them.
The memories seemed to be trapped by weeds in this place, both near and far. Every corner seemed to hold countless memories, lingering, unable to be rid of.
To forget, was something incredibly hard.
He Xia stopped in the courtyard, his handsome face as cold as ice. He ordered, “Prepare a banquet here, so that I can have a good drink in this Jing-An Ducal Residence.”
He now held monstrous power, no one could neglect his smallest command.
The weeds were removed, the fallen leaves were swept. The mud-covered tiles gradually exposed their former gleam, while a mantle was placed above every door.
Red silk, green satin sheets were laid out while differently coloured mantles were round up around the abandoned pillars. They fluttered in the breeze, dancing brilliantly in the courtyard.
The residue of the fallen houses were cleared; new tables and chairs were set. Tea was served, topped with all sorts of fresh fruit.
The scarlet sun set, and the huge Jing-An Ducal Residence had been laid out. A whole day’s worth of effort.
During sunset, the Jing-An Ducal Residence’s rare antiques were brought out. Only a half of them were left behind after the fire, and it was strangely quite sentimental.
Drinks and dishes were served. He Xia sat in the courtyard, ordering his men to move a hundred feet back, guarding him from a distance.
The Queen of Gui Le was in charge of the jug. She quietly sat at one side, frowning but calm.
Only He Su was able to drink with him.
“Cheers.” He Xia lifted his cup, clinking it in midair.
He Su was full of thoughts, but at this stage, he no longer had anything to tie him down. He wasn’t afraid of death nor a cup of wine.
He too lifted the cup. “Cheers.” He raised his head and drank, the acrid taste heading straight down his throat.
The wine brought in sadness, making him even more unhappy.
He Su looked around, at the splendid arrangements, concealing the ruins of the Jing-An Ducal Residence. The root of everything was him. He Su couldn’t help but heave a sigh, “I didn’t think we would still be able to drink together.”
The Queen trudged forwards, quietly filling their cups.
“You never know, do you?” He Xia unexpectedly smiled, asking He Su, “Do you not know why I invited you to drink?”
The two had known each other for a long time. In their youth, they could be said to be childhood friends. Neither expected today. Their sharp gazes hit each other.
He Xia held the cup up. In a deep voice he said, “I want to thank you.”
He Xia’s handsome features seemed to be shrouded in a thin layer of smoke, not allowing anyone to see the depths of the bitterness in his eyes. “Who else am I to thank, apart from you, for the reason why I am so majestic today?”
He never thought this day would come.
He used to be the suave, romantic, happy and respected Marquess of Jing-An amongst the four countries.
He had a country to protect, a home to return to, had his parents, Pingting and Dongzhuo to be around with, received the adoration of millions of soldiers. He was prepared to shed blood to fight for his beloved Gui Le.
But everything quickly changed, without any time to breathe. He Xia would never forget the moment he watched the sky burn with the flames in the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
The Queen of Gui Le quietly sat at one side. She could see the boundless hatred under He Xia’s calm expression. A shiver ran up her spine.
He Su smiled instead. He lowered his voice, “Are you hating me for getting rid of the Jing-An Ducal Residence? That’s right, you grew up with me and I respected the Duke of Jing-An as my elder. That day, to protect the royal authority, I was too cruel.”
He Xia said, “No need to explain, I understand.”
“That’s right, I do.” He Xia raised his head, drinking another cup.
Bitter alcohol. Each cup following the next all held bitter alcohol.
He Su ruined the Jing-An Ducal Residence.
Yet he, the honourable and respected Marquess of Jing-An, used poison to murder in Bei Mo, killing his favourite maid Pingting and the Royal Residence of Yun Chang. He cried while listening to Yaotian, his pregnant wife, die.
How could he not understand?
The sky was darkening from the sunset, leaving a faint glow in the clearing.
He Xia raised his cup, cheering the people who ruined his House of Jing-An. Each cup was bitter.
The rubble from the demolished building around him made his heart ache until it was crazed. It was all thanks to these people, yet he was in this sacred place, drinking next to them.
Because, he couldn’t find anyone who could share this bitter alcohol, share this deserted Jing-An Ducal Residence with.
Where were his parents? Where was Pingting?
And where was his wife who granted his military power, Yaotian?
Time wasn’t kind enough to stop, passing by with a sigh. The dusk fell, quietly closing in. The guards remained utterly silent as candles were lit around them.
The two drank in silence, the Queen continuing to serve the wine.
He Su never looked at the Queen. He simply lifted his cup to drink without expression. When he lifted his head to look at the sky, the moon had already passed the transit.
He hardened his heart, putting down his empty cup on the table. He generously said, “Time’s up. Go on, whether it’s poison or knife. I promise you, I’m willing to commit suicide as long as my wife and son will be safe.”
There was a clang as the silver jug fell onto the tiles, spilling alcohol everywhere.
The Queen of Gui Le froze on the spot, suddenly wailing. “King! King you…you…” She fell before He Su’s feet, biting her purple lips but was unable to express a single word.
She knew surrendering was their only chance of escape, but she hadn’t expected her husband would offer his life to He Xia to exchange for hers.
The night before, she felt they finally walked on the same path, but at this moment, her chest seemed to have been smashed by a hammer, so painful she would rather die.
He Xia looked at the Queen of Gui Le weeping at feet. A vague hint of nostalgia passed on his face, but it quickly left as soon as it came. His expression turned cold and solemn once more, “This woman seized power, causing political chaos to Gui Le. She made you lose everything, yet you would still protect her. What a ridiculous mess of a relationship, totally unlike you.”
He Su listened and looked down as his wife crying in distraught. His expression revealed a little bit of warmth as he whispered, “I really did hate her for Le Zhen’s rebellion. Two or three times after imprisoning her, I thought of sending an Order to force her suicide. I even once thought before handing the letter of surrender to Prince Consort of Yun Chang, I would kill her before my own death.”
He dragged out a long sigh, then continued, perhaps to answer He Xia or only to himself, “The surrender letter has made it clear that I am willing to commit suicide as long as two lives of my Royal House are spared. As a father, my heart belongs to my child so why cannot I commit suicide for Shao’er? But as for the second person I wanted to protect, I thought again and again, until the end, the one I really wanted to exchange my life to protect, was still her…”
“King!” The Queen raised her head as she mournfully cried, choking, “It’s my fault! I really deserve death!”
“You don’t deserve death. Shao’er has already lost his father, how could he lose his mother to?” He Su sadly smiled. Since ascending to the throne, he was surrounded by numerous beauties due to holding the royal power, causing him to become increasingly cold towards the Queen. Yet now, when death was before his eyes, he realised the woman who had been staying by his side for all these years was the one person his heart was unwilling to leave. He softened his voice, “On our wedding night, I promised to love and protect only you in my lifetime. I have forgotten that promise over these days. But today, I don’t know why I suddenly remembered it. Don’t cry, Queen, I am merely fulfilling my promise.”
He Xia stood at one side, coldly observing them.
He had come to bring hate, crusading into Gui Le. On the way, the Yun Chang army had been invincible, not a single battle lost, until sieging the city. He wanted to force He Su’s suicide quickly, so he could mock them to the last minute and let his heart be amused.
He didn’t expect this wasn’t the soul-healing elixir he wanted to cure the hurt in his heart. Entering the city and seeing the barrenness of the Jing-An Ducal Residence made him feel regret and helplessness.
He Xia just quietly stood at the side, watching He Su softly saying goodbye to his wife, the Queen’s grief too much for her body. He turned to his side where there was no one. The ruins of his home scantily decorated with fine silks and satins were printed in the depths of his eyes. The lonely wind lingered.
A hatred from being betrayed by those people began to crash into his heart like a volcanic eruption.
“King may not have to die. For our friendships in our childhood, I will now give you a chance.” He Xia sneered, “As long as one of the three members of the Gui Le Royal House is willing to commit suicide, I will allow the other two to live, including King himself.”
The Queen of Gui Le hadn’t expected this sudden chance. She suddenly stopped crying, turning to look at He Xia. She earnestly asked, “Is Marquess of Jing-An saying the truth?” If it was true, than as long as she committed suicide, then her husband and her son would be spared.
He Xia had yet to reply, when He Su solemnly answered, “No need to say any more, Queen. The decision has already been made, there isn’t any need to change it.”
He Xia hadn’t expected He Su to be so decisive. His face suddenly changed as his hand pressed against the sword hilt, continuing to sneer.
Every word, action, and expression between these two people reminded him of Yaotian. It stabbed at his heart with the intention to kill.
“King,” The Queen of Gui Le’s eyes were red as she sobbed, “It doesn’t matter anything if I die, but if only King could…”
“Could what?” He Su stared at her, a deep coldness hid in his eyes. Seeing that she cried until her face was tearstained, he couldn’t help bend down, gently wiping away her tears away. He knew this was the last chance he could talk to his wife. His voice was utterly gentle. “As your husband, how could I not protect you? Where on earth can you find a husband who can bear watching his wife die before him?”
He didn’t know that his careless remark was like a sharpened knife stabbing straight into He Xia’s heart.
Where on earth could you find a husband who could bear watching his wife die before him?
He Xia listened, his head buzzing as if someone had erupted. His vision was emptied.
His body shook a few times. He barely managed to steady himself. Sweat oozed out from his palm, dripping onto the sword hilt he touched. He pulled it out without hesitation, grinded his teeth. “Damn you all.”
He Su abruptly looked up, the sword light already reaching into his eyes. He was born crown prince so although he was afraid of He Xia’s abilities, he was still a man with resolute pride. He had long made up his mind to give up his life to protect his wife and son, so he stood in the same place with closed eyes, without panic or fear as he waited for the jolt of pain to come.
He Xia swung his sword down as his anger rose even more. He saw He Su’s eyes closed, waiting for his death with such a dignified air. He simply felt that he deserved much more than a single sword cut. His gaze turned, falling on the Queen who was still flying in midair to block the King’s body from being hit.
His swordsmanship was excellent. He immediately turned with the sword which then pierced without excess movement.
“Ahhh!” A scream was heard.
He Su suddenly opened her eyes wide. When he looked down, his wife had already fallen in a pool of blood.
“Queen! Queen!” He Su knelt down, holding the Queen in his arms, his voice already hoarse.
The Queen had been stabbed in the throat, and blood ejected like an arrow. Her body had already become limp, so there was no way she could make a sound. She opened her eyes, looking gratefully at He Su before slowly closing them again.
He Su saw her wrist hang down, never to make another movement again. He seemed to feel an icy coldness in his whole body. From the ground, he slowly raised his head towards He Xia, his eyes red. He spat out each word, “Why did you do that?”
The corners of He Xia’s eyes twitched slightly, his face rather stupefied as if he had lost his own soul. His mouth sneered, however, “Let me tell you, there really are husbands who have watched their wife die before them.”
“He Xia!” He Su roared, abruptly standing up. “Damn you to hell!” He thought his relationship with the Queen had become completely non-existent and never once thought watching the Queen die before him would cause his heart to shatter so much. The sudden pain seemed to drive away all of his reasoning as he charged towards He Xia. His two hands were outstretched, risking his life to pounce for He Xia’s neck.
He Xia killed the Queen of Gui Le in one strike. Although his lips held a smile and his words were sharp as his sword, his heart was actually felt tipsy, as if the alcohol had gone to his head. He knew what he had done, yet he was unaware of it at the same time.
He Su charged towards him. As the guards were a hundred feet away, they couldn’t come to his aid immediately. He Xia’s combat skills were excellent, not to mention he held a sword, so there was no way He Su could get close. He Xia saw the looming black figure, took a step back, and instinctively raised his sword to stab.
He only felt like he had been jolted awake from this dream until a surge of blood spilled all over his face. He finally clearly saw He Su coming close, his wasted dead eyes glaring angrily at him.
He had been stabbed in the chest by He Xia’s long sword, instantly dying. He Xia released his grip, causing He Su’s corpse and the sword to slowly flop beside the Queen of Gui Le.
“Prince Consort…” His bodyguards rushed over.
He Xia waved his hand, ordering them to withdraw.
In the empty courtyard of the Jing-An Ducal Residence, he was the only one left, standing alone.
The couple quietly laid in a pool of blood. At first glance, they seemed like people who had relentlessly used their life and death to ridicule He Xia, the man who now dominated the world.
He conquered the four countries, his calvary trampling over all the mountains and rivers, yet was actually being ridiculed by a pair of corpses?
“Hahaha…” He Xia tossed his head back and laughed.
In the silent night, amongst the residues of the Jing-An Ducal Residence, waves of hollow laughter spread.
Didn’t this couple hate each other? If they didn’t, then how could they rattle the entire country, vainly causing Gui Le’s ruin?
“I’m just thinking, if the House of Jing-An hadn’t perished, would Yaotian still have been blessed enough to be the wife of Husband or not?”
The gentle voice was very familiar. He Xia turned abruptly. Nothing.
In the past, her smile was like flowers, slender fingers lifting the shaking bead curtain, revealing a pair of energetic eyes that deeply looked at him.
She had been on a carriage, quietly crying, been in the hall, modestly sitting and had been to the Prince Consort Residence, to accompany him while he drank or watched dance…
I really want to forget them.
Until not one memory is left!
He Xia shuddered as he looked at He Su and the Queen’s corpses. Heavy air seemed to refuse to let him straighten his spine, nor fall to his knees.
He bent over in pain, hiding his eyes with his face.
Couldn’t forget it, he couldn’t forget it.
The Jing-An Ducal Residence ruined before his eyes after a great victory. No one stood by his side, no one felt happy for him, and no one felt sorry for him.
At this moment, he finally realized how much he missed Yaotian.
He thought of his wife as only a tool to gain power, who had died while pregnant with his child. He didn’t realize until now that he had always missed Yaotian.
When he received the full royal authority of Yun Chang, the distress in his heart felt so strong that it made him completely numb.
The lock was on the door while Yaotian cried.
“No, no, I don’t want the physician. I want the Prince Consort…the Prince Consort…”
“Hurry, find someone to call the Prince Consort over. Make him come here…”
“Luyi, I want to see him…I won’t make it, I want to see him. Hurry, he won’t not see me…”
He Xia’s body began to quake.
The lock was on the door.
The heavy lock, locked another space, locked up powerful hatred.
Open it, open it. It was merely a lock, merely a wooden door, but inside was his wife and his flesh & blood.
“Open it! Open that lock! Hurry, smash it for me, smash it!” He Xia clutched to his head as he howled, his handsome face twisting in pain.
He had the four countries. The slightest beckon with the wave of his hand would be tended to with utmost care. He could busy himself, but it was helpless against the emptiness and deathly silence in his heart.
Everyone had heartlessly left.
Where was home?
Where were his loved ones?
Yaotian’s calls before her death were omnipresent, forcing their way into his ears.
“Open the lock…open the lock! Someone, open the lock!”
“Prince Consort? Prince Consort?”
Ears recognizing human voices, He Xia suddenly looked up, his gaze piercing.
The people in front of him carefully studied his expression. “What lock is Prince Consort commanding us to open? I will immediately go do it.”
His trusted bodyguard.
He Xia dazedly looked at him, gradually coming back to his senses. He sighed, straightening out his numbed body. His gaze flicked to the ground where He Su and his wife’s corpses had cooled, their blood clotting on the ground. He Xia studied the patch of red, his expression suddenly heartless as he ordered, “Kill him.”
The soldier saw his expression and his heart trembled. He lowered his head to look at the freezing cold corpse of He Su, softly saying, “Report to Prince Consort, this man has already died.”
“No,” He Xia’s face was pale white. He widened his eyes, smiling mirthlessly, “Go, kill He Su’s prince. Not one of Gui Le’s Royal House is to be spared.”
His expression was so terrifying that even the soldier couldn’t help stiffen at the command. During their conversation, He Xia told He Su that as long as He Su was willing to commit suicide in surrender, he would let two of the Royal House live. Now that both He Su and the Queen had died, what need was there to kill an insignificant little prince?”
“Prince Consort, that Prince of Gui Le, didn’t you say…”
“What did I say?” He Xia fumed, “How dare you, to disobey my Order? Someone, take him away, twenty whacks with the army cane!” After a man had come to take away that soldier, he called someone up again, ordering, “Go kill the Prince of Gui Le, immediately! I refuse to let He Su’s son live.”
He already had the world. Why would he let his enemy’s son live, when his own flesh and blood had died?
He Su’s son had been locked up long ago, so it wasn’t hard to kill him.
Very soon, the soldier sent back to report, “Prince Consort, He Shao has been killed.”
He Xia processed this but without joy. He just said, “Oh really?” He quietly stood for a long time in the wind, before looking back at the guards around him. Each and every one of them watched him back quietly, the colour of horror in their eyes.
A burst of sadness hit He Xia’s heart. He softly asked, “That He Su agreed to commit suicide, but changed his mind at the last minute. The Queen resisted alongside him too, both attempting to kill me. That’s why I killed his son.” He thought of the soldier who had just talked to him, asking, “Where’s Tongcheng?”
“Report to Prince Consort, as Prince Consort ordered, he has been taken away for twenty whacks with army cane. He is currently kneeling outside, awaiting further instructions from Prince Consort.”
He Xia said, “Give him medicine, let him rest for two days so he may properly heal.”
Looking around at the now strangely unfamiliar Jing-An Ducal Residence, he sighed again.
The target had been confirmed to be Qierou. After waiting for ten days, Chu Beijie’s party finally arrived.
While the crowd of generals were discussing matters in the army tent, Luoshang excitedly lifted the flap. “Bei Mo’s Hua Can has arrived.”
Everyone in the tent was delighted. “Welcome him in.”
The words had yet to fall, when Hua Can stepped in looking all dusty. He was one of the young generals who Ruohan promoted after Ze Yin’s retirement. Although he suffered the defeat at the Battle of Zhouqing, his spirit never dwindled. Even though his face was caked to a dark gray, the sparkle remained in his eyes. He scanned the tent, his eyes falling on Ruohan. “Main General,” he showed the gesture of submission towards Ruohan, enegetically. “I immediately set off after receiving Main General’s secret letter. The morale of Bei Mo is in its craze, so there were quite a lot of people finding our hidden recruiters.”
“Don’t jump right in to the report. Allow me to introduce these people first.” Ruohan was quite delighted seeing his subordinate. He beckoned towards the various generals, finally leading him to Chu Beijie. “This is the Duke of Zhen-Bei.”
Hua Can looked at Chu Beijie, wariness and respect flashing in his eyes.
Chu Beijie knew it wasn’t easy to lead this group of former enemies, so he wasn’t particularly offended by his expression. He studied Hua Can for a moment, asking, “How many did you lead here?”
Hua Can still felt rather uneasy making his report to Chu Beijie and gazed questioningly at Ruohan before replying, “Our base in Bei Mo has already collected quite a few people. Thinking the eyes and ears of the Yun Chang army might detect us on the way, I only led a thousand men here. Although most are newcomers to the battlefield, I can guarantee that they’re all good lads.”
Pingting had long heard Hua Can’s arrival, sending her heart pounding without end. From beside Chu Beijie, she spoke out, unable to restrain her excitement, “Have you heard from Yangfeng yet?”
Hua Can’s eyes swiveled, seeing a fine-looking woman standing beside Chu Beijie. Although she wasn’t close to a stunning beauty, she had a sort of graceful elegance that radiated. He immediately guessed who she most likely was and replied, quite respectfully, “Yes, I have sent people to the address Miss wrote and found the Main General’s wife.”
Since Pingting helped Bei Mo against Dong Lin, the generals of Bei Mo were quite close to her so Hua Can’s attitude to her was much more natural than to Chu Beijie.
Pingting hurriedly asked, “Are they all okay? When Yangfeng saw my letter, did she say anything?”
Hua Can smiled, “The Main General’s wife said, everyone has their own aspirations, so she can’t do anything but refuse Miss Bai’s wish to let her and the children hide in the mountains in safety.”
Pingting was a little stunned. She stared at Hua Can’s smiling face. Her eyes suddenly lit up after a few moments. She softly exclaimed, “My god, she actually brought the children here!”
Several dozen white pigeons instantly fluttered their wings to lift off her heart, flying and scattering the fragrance of delight and surprise in every direction.
Yangfeng had come. Yangfeng who detested war and always wanted to avoid everything about it actually came.
Where were the children?
Changxiao, my Changxiao.
Pingting was suddenly heading straight towards the exit. When she got to the door, she suddenly stopped, hurried back, and pulled Chu Beijie outside by the hand.
She had always been calm, so this was a rare moment of excitement that even Chu Beijie couldn’t quite comprehend. But since Pingting was the one who obediently offered her little hand, there was no way Chu Beijie would let go of it. He allowed himself to be pulled towards the door while he asked, “Is this to welcome Yangfeng?” With one lift of the flap, the two people disappeared behind the door.
The generals watched the two disappear out of the army tent, both surprised and envious.
Hua Can stood on the spot for a while, turning to Ruohan to sigh, “This Miss Bai is amazing indeed. I wanted to keep her guessing, but she guessed it in one phrase.”
Ruohan’s mood was quite good. He patted him on the shoulder, laughing, “A pity, you didn’t get to see what the Battle of Kanbu looked like.”
He then went with Hua Can to attend the men and horses who arrived with food and water. There were many piled here and there on the grass, sleeping.
Pingting led Chu Beijie quickly to the entrance. She immediately spotted the swan-like Yangfeng in the crowd of chickens. Although her features showed exhaustion, not a trace of her gentle beauty was lost.
Yangfeng had also saw Pingting from afar. She waved to Pingting, chuckling, “Pingting.”
“Yangfeng.” Pingting yelled with delighted surprise. She let go of Chu Beijie, picking up both of Yangfeng’s hands. She squeezed them.
She assessed Yangfeng from top to bottom. Although she didn’t open her mouth to speak, the ripples of excitement couldn’t be hidden in her eyes. The two held each other’s hands, watching the other for a very long time before Pingting broke the silence. Her voice was rather critical as she sighed, “Geez, why didn’t you listen to me? You should be running far away in a time of soldiers and weapons. It’s very dangerous here.”
“You’re not willing to lie dormant yourself, so how could you ask others to do that too? I too must do what I want to do the most, that is, to come to the military camp and personally witness how this chaos will settle.” Yangfeng’s gentle face was much more determined than usual, as she faintly smiled, “I said it before didn’t I? I will personally witness my husband’s words become reality.”
This firm expression, prior to losing Ze Yin, had never once appeared on Yangfeng’s face before.
Pingting couldn’t help but feel slightly surprised. She lowered her voice, “Then what about the children?”
Yangfeng had yet to reply, when a small head popped out from behind Yangfeng, revealing a broad grin. “Auntie!”
“Ze Qing, you’ve gotten taller.” Pingting lovingly stroked his head, her own gaze unable to stop searching her surroundings.
Yangfeng knew who Pingting was looking for. She pursed her lips and smiled, “You don’t need to search, over there.” She pointed behind Pingting.
Children grew too fast. It hadn’t been long, but Changxiao seemed to have grown a lot and seemed even more mischievous than Ze Qing now. He just arrived to an unfamiliar place but was curious about everything. He hadn’t realized his Lady Mother had arrived and somehow slipped behind Pingting, coincidentally being attracted to another familiar object.
Changxiao had a very good memory. He once played with this dazzling shiny thing which caused Ze Qing to be hit by Yangfeng. He recognized it at first glance and clung around Chu Beijie’s leg without any further explanation. He tried to grope for the Divine Soul sword on Chu Beijie’s waist.
Chu Beijie lowered his head and saw this little thing trying to climb up his leg who then looked up at him. The thing had rather crystal-black pupils with a clear light in them and was trying to steal the precious sword on his waist. He wasn’t afraid of the Duke of Zhen-Bei who no one else dared to lay a finger on.
This little kid sure had great courage.
Back then, even his brother’s two princes didn’t dare to so blatantly climb up him.
Chu Beijie carefully assessed this little thing. His nose was straight, his eyes were stubborn, and the more he studied it, the more he liked it. He suddenly thought of his and Pingting’s child that had quietly been swallowed by fate, sending ruthless bursts of pain into his heart.
He hadn’t expected that both of Ze Yin’s sons could walk now.
He felt deep envy in his heart.
He had never particularly liked children, but this time his heart softened. He couldn’t help bend down to pick up Changxiao and playfully squeez Changxiao’s chubby little cheek. “What a naughty boy, why do you not obediently follow your mother?”
Changxiao, who had been too excited from his play, was reminded. He looked left and right, finally seeing that familiar figure. He instantly began to yell, “Mother!”
A very sweet and pleasant voice rang out as he waved with both hands in Pingting and Yangfeng’s direction. He struggled to leave Chu Beijie’s arms.
Chu Beijie realized he wasn’t willing to let go, so he followed his gaze to look in Pingting and Yangfeng’s direction, and Pingting happened to turn to look in their direction.
In the end, a mother’s nature overrules everything. Hearing Changxiao’s calls, Pingting’s heart felt like it was being tightened by rope which slacked after cooling down her excitement from earlier. She could no longer hold back at that moment, her tears swelled up in her eyes as she walked towards Chu Beijie. “Changxiao, Changxiao, I really wanted to see you.” Her eyes were filled with gentleness as she softly murmured, her tears hanging off her cheeks.
Changxiao did not seem understand the taste of parting. Seeing his mother, he was so happy he waddled in Pingting’s arms, giggling.
Chu Beijie stood at one side, transfixed like a wooden chicken.
He was turned to stone, listening to the Changxiao in Pingting’s arms, saying “Mother”.
A rainbow suddenly lifted, painting right across the clouds of his mind, emitting colourful light. One band of colour, then the second, the third…
Numerous colours began to spin, tightly surrounding the bigger and smaller figures imprinted in his eyes. The sweetness and gentleness he felt at that moment was so beautiful that he simply couldn’t believe it to be true.
Pingting held onto Changxiao as she turned around. She returned Chu Beijie’s gaze before lowering her head shyly, her expression rather apologetic. She whispered, “Duke, this is Changxiao.”
Although this one sentence was softly said to him, it sounded more beautiful than the melody of the gods. Chu Beijie knew he would never, ever, forget these words. This dignified Duke of Zhen-Bei actually had the urge to burst into tears right there and then, in front of the huge crowds.
Changxiao, this was Changxiao.
His son too!
Chu Beijie’s limbs seemed to have flown into the skies. He gaped at the happy mother and son in front of him. He didn’t dare make a single expression nor did a muscle on his face twitch as they would all cause the emotion he felt to overflow, his tears of joy irrepressible.
This little guy was his and Pingting’s…
Even though he tried for ages, trying to talk several times, he was too excited to speak a single world.
Pingting saw him like that and couldn’t help give him a bit of an anxious look.
Changxiao turned his head to look at him, eyeing the Divine Spirit soul again. He delightedly shouted, “Knife-knife!” as he reached out in midair to climb onto Chu Beijie.
Yangfeng was holding onto Ze Qing, a smile in her lips as she watched at one side.
Chu Beijie’s throat was dry and hoarse, numerous joyous songs roaring like waves. It seemed that he needed to jump right up and scream away the burning fire in his heart to the sky several times. But his body was uncontrollable, and it stayed rooted to the spot.
Finally, a few words were painstakingly squeezed out of his hoarse throat, “Wait a minute.”
Pingting and the others were shocked as they watched Chu Beijie suddenly turn, rushing into one of the closest tents. Once he went in, the soldiers inside rapidly came out, each with a look of puzzled doubt, suggesting that Chu Beijie had driven them away.
The crowd circled the tent. There was suddenly a violent sound shattering the wind.
Even those across the tent could clearly hear the sharp sound of wind breaking continuously.
The Duke of Zhen-Bei seemed to be maniacally waving his sword.
The thick tent skin was trembling, as if the tent was about to split apart any time soon.
After a while, the sword seemed sound and stopped. The earth seemed to have silenced too.
Flap! The tent door was violently lifted, shocking the nervously waiting crowd with is force.
Chu Beijie was covered in sweat as he strode out from inside. His hand was pressed on the Divine Spirit sword, his gaze piercing. The confidence of the Duke of Zhen-Bei pretty much returned, but his red eyes said otherwise.
He headed towards Pingting, staring at Changxiao. He rightfully took over and began to hug him, “Good son, call me Father.”
Changxiao was quite stubborn. He was usually never this obedient. Perhaps of their connection by blood did he surprisingly agree. He really did, quite delightedly, say, “Father.” He then looked down to play with Chu Beijie’s cloak.
Chu Beijie felt his heart scream in joy with his word, “Father”. At the same time, it felt like his throat clogged even more as he hugged Changxiao tightly. The small and soft body felt light, and he felt like the hand that gripped his sword mustn’t touch this little thing or it would crumble.
It was so fragile that it was sad.
But it was this fragile little life, this tender call of “Father”, that made even the most sturdiest of weapons or cavalry made him brim with confidence. Chu Beijie’s nose felt both sour and painful, as he felt his son in his arms. The overwhelming joy of being a father flooded into him. His high spirits made him burst out laughing.
Who in the world was more fortunate than him?
Nothing in this world could replace this tender sound nor Pingting’s one smile.
Chu Beijie roared in laughter for a long time. He was so happy that he was almost about to cry again, but he managed to control himself in the end. He softly exclaimed to Pingting, “This is one arrow of revenge is really quite harsh.” His voice was full of desperation.
All sorts of the pain Pingting suffered were dissipated in that very moment. Seeing Chu Beijie’s excitement, she felt rather guilty herself. She lowered her head and spoke as quietly as a mosquito, “How can Pingting mention it, if Duke isn’t going to ask? But Pingting was quite stubborn about this so don’t be angry, Duke. Pingting will accept any punishment, okay?”
Chu Beijie’s piercing eyes studied her, as if using his eyes to hold her so that she could forever be hidden in the depths of his eyes.
He had the feeling of deja vu.
The wind in the campsite silently blew past, hurling them back to that Three-Swallow Cliff. That day, archers had been lying in ambush in all directions, ready to fire. He Xia had appeared from above them, looking romantic as they forced him to make the five-year truce.
That day, he had been on the horse while Pingting was in his arms.
That day, he had been angry, absolutely furious.
That day was the first time he tasted heartbreak, the first time he realised that he loved a woman, the first time he had stepped onto this road of a thousand twists.
Both love and hate, happiness and sadness, were densely interwoven together. He hadn’t been able to distinguish the taste between them and gained unshaken values from that.
No, he wasn’t angry any more.
How could he be angry? He already had so much.
Chu Beijie hugged Changxiao with one arm, his hand vigorously rubbing Changxiao’s cheeks. His other arm held Pingting and hoped that time would stop at this moment forever.
Pingting was held by his sturdy hand and raised her head to look at Chu Beijie dotingly hugging their cute son. In the past, this scene was one she could only dream about and it had become true. Her eyes felt a stinging warmth.
She bit her lip, staring at the beautiful scene for a moment. She softly asked, “Duke isn’t angry anymore?”
“Is Duchess no longer angry?” Chu Beijie smiled wryly, “You cheated death once and cheated once again, so I have suffered enough as well. Please Duchess, have mercy, don’t punish me anymore. The wrongdoings I have done before, please forgive me.”
Pingting was too ashamed to look up, but sweet laughter played on her lips. She clutched tightly to Chu Beijie’s hand, saying, “Duke, there are people standing around us.”
“So what?” Chu Beijie’s gaze swept around and couldn’t help toss back his head and laughing again. “Let them know that the one thing they must never do is offend their most beloved woman.”
Women always had ways to punish their men.
They would only think about their beloved man, and likewise, they were only willing to suffer heartbreak for their beloved man.