Sekarang sudah ada bahasa sunda dan jawa di fitur google translate, mudah-mudahan ada tambahan bahasa daerah lagi ke sistem google translate :)

Falling Dreams of Fang Hua Chapter 21-30

Chapter21

to in the future,” I answered meekly. JUNE 27, 2016RUYI
The waterlogged book had its pages all stuck together. It was almost too tragic to look at.

“That…”

I wanted to snatch it away with my hands.

He gave me an indifferent look, neither warm nor imposing, but to make me tremble in place. This is how he stood in front of me, with his slender fingers flipping page after page through the book, face expressionless.

Although the book had been soaked with water, letting some of its ink run, the figures and positions, as well as the actions going underway, were still easy to see. No matter how good his temper was, these clandestine-type pictures would still infuriate him, right?

I bowed my head, docilely staring at the ground in a daze.

From a distance, Han Zichuan walked over with the qin in his arms, his face looking at us in curiosity. Now he had stopped in place, his hesitation obvious.

The dripping book had already made Fang Hua’s clothing wet to the point that they were starting to sag. The drops of water made a pitter patter sound the moment they splashed onto the ground. My heart suddenly felt heavy.

“You…what did you buy.” he looked at me, speaking in a measured tone and pace. The hands holding the book also lowered themselves.

“Shao’er won’t dare to in the future,” I answered meekly.

He sucked in a deep breath, pinching the book between his fingers as he took as step forwards. The cloth rippled like swaying forms of liquid clouds, and was really quite pretty to see, but today the sight frightened me.

I trembled and quickly backed away, but he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards his chest, resting his head by my neck with a smile. With every breath he took, I felt unbelievably ticklish.

“… …thank you very much.”

Ah.

What did he say?

He suddenly thanked me…how weird.

Before I could react, yifu let me go, pinching the book between his fingers as he spoke to Han Zichuan. The words made me want to spit blood. “Look at what Shao’er brought me…” He raised his eyebrows in satisfaction, even picking one of the most ‘stimulating’ pictures to wave below his face. “See this? An acupuncture diagram of mortals.”

At this point, I felt like killing myself. Are you serious….
“Is that so.” Han Zichuan’s reply was obviously meant for me. He took ahold of the sopping wet paper before shooting me a glance, looking calm and composed.

It’s just that look in his eye… …was full of condemnation, enough to merit a serious reflection. It was getting harder to hold onto my smile, especially with my face getting stiffer.

“Hmm?” Fang Hua made a soft noise, then gave a steady smile. He looked up to see Han Zichuan, the teardrop-mole beneath his eye filled with particularly tender feelings. “If you want one as well, buy it yourself next time. I can’t give you this one.”

I was left at a loss. There he stood waving the book, back and forth.

Han Zichuan turned aside and gave me a vicious look. The fingers he was using to hold onto the book started pressing down with enough strength to turn them white.

I could only remain silent and stare at the skies. The weather wasn’t bad today.
I had the distinct feeling that the stare leveled my way was increasing their killer intent. I steeled myself and looked towards the surrounding trees. Each tree had leaves that looked like leaves, roots that looked like roots.

Han Zichuan’s eyes on me were filled with an e

Fang Hua noticed the turmoil within Zichuan’s heart and smiled at him, his eyes roving charmingly. Just when the other was struck dumb, he deftly tugged on the book and claimed it back. Then he used his sleeves to wipe away the water staining its surfaces.

I broke out into a sweat at the sight.

“Yifu, that book’s already wet. Why don’t you return it to me, and next time…” My eyes turned towards him as I spoke with a genial smile. “I’ll buy a new one for you, all right?”

“That won’t do.” Fang Hua smiled back, a dazzling sight. He was usually such a clean and tidy person, but now he was hugging the wet book to his chest, unwilling to even use the same sleeve he’d wiped the book with to clean my face. “This trip must have been sweltering for you, you’re sweating so much. There’s still some iced pickled plum soup[1] in the house, I’ll bring some over for you.”

I wanted to cry, but I had no tears.

I’m not like this because it’s hot, but because you both made me break out in cold sweat.

“As for this…” The outline of the book was just visible within his embrace. He touched it and said, “This is the first gift that Shao’er’s even given me, I’m going to have to read it everyday.”

His mood seemed excellent as he waved his sleeves and walked off. I stared after him, tongue-tied.
That book of pornographic pictures…was taken away by him in this manner.

Han Zichuan stared at me again, stuck between anger and amusement.
“I’ll settle things with you later.”

Thus speaking, he followed after him at a quick pace.

A fresh wind blew past, stirring up the fallen leaves. I stood in the midst for a long time, my mind in disorder. Finally, I clutched at my head and decided to stop thinking about it.

I should take care of the important things first.

After checking to make sure no one else was around…I lifted up my robes and ran to the side of the house, next to a giant Wutong tree. Kneeling on the ground, I picked up a small branch and started digging.

The hole I dug was neither large nor small, but just right. I used a handkerchief to carefully wrap up the large amount of paper money and gold leaves, pressed down the corners before putting them in the hold… … I was just about finished. My ears strained to pick up any sign of noise as I threw the dirt back in the hole.

I couldn’t help it. This was a trait I’d picked up from childhood. When I was a beggar, I was always hungry, so I got used to hiding my best things in the dirt to give me a chance for survival. Nowadays…there was no way for me to change my habits.

“Brother Shao, what are you doing now?” I wasn’t clear when a person had suddenly come to stand behind me to ask this question, scaring me out of my seven emotions and six spirits.

“Han Zichuan.” I held the tree branch in my hands…my hands shook with the urge to sweep the dirt onto his face, but I held back and sat with a plop on the ground. “Didn’t you go to help yifu? Why’d you come over here?”

He was very concentrated on staring at me.

I gave a no-good sigh and smiled as my hand grabbed another fistful of dirt and quietly scattered it over my hole.

“The thing you bought…” He narrowed his eyes and leaned in, quietly.
“Was it a pornography book?”

“Your experiences are really broad, I can’t hide a thing from you.”
Then I paused. “What’s pornography?” “You’re faking it, aren’t you.”
He gave me a sideways glance, then looked at the dirt and smiled. “Don’t sit on the ground. I should really bring one of these things back. I’ve never seen someone act so filial to their yifu before, even buying things like this for him.”

Fellow brother… …

I bought it for myself. If yifu wanted to steal it away, then what could I do? I was sullen.

Maybe I’d been squatting for too long, but now my legs had turned numb and my feet were listless. I propped myself up, but my stomach felt strange. The insides felt oddly hot and painful.

“Can you give me a hand…”

“What’s wrong? You don’t look so good.” He hurried over to support me, eyebrows knitted together. After a long moment of consideration, he placed a hand on my forehead. “Brother Shao, do you feel unwell somewhere?”

I did feel a little unwell…

I leaned against a tree and pushed him aside.

But he came back over, still worried, and prepared to support me again.

“What are you two doing?” a slow and gentle voice rose up, its tender delicacy pierced with a certain coldness.

Both of us were startled.

-o-

[1] iced pickled plum soup ( 冰梅⼦汤) −bing meizitang, how do I describe it…it’s not made using fresh plums, but preserved/pickled ones
that have a tartness to their sweetness. You boil with with sugar in water I think, and then let it cool…it’s really refreshing for summer! I wouldn’t call it a soup, it’s more like a drink, but it’s cooked like a soup so….???

Chapter22

d.”

JUNE 27, 2016RUYI

Han Zichuan and I were locked in a…rather questionable position. This, I understood very clearly.
Fang Hua watched the two of us quietly, and a flash of loneliness appeared in his eyes. His eyebrows twisted into an expression of melancholy, making him look wholly desolate.

I hurriedly pushed Han Zichuan aside and straightened up with an awkward smile.

A moment later, his eyebrows smoothed out, and the chaotic feelings he’d shown before gradually dispersed without a trace.

As if everything I saw before was just an illusion.

When I looked at him again, he was wearing a small smile. An aura of gentle refinement hit me full-on in the face to steal my breath away.

“I brought over some iced syrup drink for you two, but neither of you showed up after I called.”

I was shaken. He took the chance to place a bowl of iced pickled plum soup into my hands, eyes drifting to the place on my waist where Han Zichuan had rested his hand, and smiled. It was a rather pained smile.

“Thank you…” I murmured softly.

Yet Han Zichuan only rudely took the other bowl from his hands before wrapping his hand around my waist to speak. “Brother Shao isn’t feeling well, hurry and take his pulse.”

I recovered my breath and hastily refused. “It’s already a bit better, don’t trouble yifu.”

Fang Hua raised his eyes at me, before pulling up a sleeve and wrapping a hand around my wrist. I was afraid to even take a deep breath.

Frowning, he briefly muttered to himself as his fingers jabbed here and there. The face staring at me had a rather strange expression.

“What’s going on?” Han Zichuan couldn’t help but speak. He gave voice to what I wanted to ask most.
Yifu seemed unable to make up his mind. “I’ve never come across a pulse like this before. It’s a little strange…as if you’re missing Qi and blood.”

Han Zichuan jerked as if he’d heard the biggest joke in history. “You’re talking about him? How is that possible? Every time there’s something tasty, he eats two-thirds of it. How could he be missing Qi or blood?”

I gave him a vicious glance.

“Jerk, I have a big appetite.”

I grabbed his bowl of iced pickled plum soup, taking two towards the stone table in the courtyard. I allowed him to feel as flustered and exasperated as he wanted, ignoring him the whole time I took sips from both bowls. Yaah…it’s really tasty, nice and pleasantly cool. Fang Hua smiled faintly and followed behind me, selecting a clean stool[1] to sit on. Today he was wearing red robes, and his shiny black hair was tied up in a side twist. lazily trailing over a shoulder. One hand rested on his cheek as he lowered his head, and a pensive look on his face made his eyebrows seem even longer. He was a male, yet his appearance had a female’s alluring charms, making it hard to look away.

Han Zichuan sat on one side, cooling him furiously with a fan from who- knows-where, giving a look full of resentment towards the two bowls of iced pickled plum soup protected within my grasp.

A slow breeze blew across the three of us.

The folding fan in Han Zichuan’s hands carried Fang Hua’s unique scent over my way. It was extremely refreshing with the breeze that occasionally stirred through my strands of hair.

From the angle I was sitting at, I could indistinctly make out…Fang Hua’s clothes rippling slightly. His outer robes were red, but his inner robes were snow-white, giving his entire person an

“Shao’er, how much silver did you get from selling the pills this time?”

I blinked my eyes and determinedly said, “Five taels.”

So speaking, I dug out the goods from my robes and placed the silver on the table, shiny and white.

“Not bad at all,” Han Zichuan propped his elbows on the table, giving them a glance. “You bought something so expensive, but still had this much silver left over.”

Fang Hua’s eyes turned into smiling crescents like he was laughing.
“Haven’t I said it? Shao’er is wonderful.”

Ah….

I was very self-satisfied. My mood turned excellent.

I drank another mouthful of sweet syrup, looking up in time to see Fang Hua patting the object he’d placed in his own robes. I narrowly avoided choking when I saw the corner of the pornography book peeking out. On the other hand, Han Zichuan kept up his fanning, but snuck his other hand over Fang Hua’s shoulders, furtively trying to steal the book.

“Shao’er, what’s wrong?” Fang Hua carefully turned to look at me. My heart panicked…
I quickly lowered my head and drank a big mouthful of ice pickled plum soup. Originally, I wanted to get over my shock, but I didn’t expect my insides to give a start as the cool liquid settled in my stomach. A sharp pain spread out from my stomach, so agonizing that my hands started trembling and dropped the bowl, splashing myself all over.

Now my mind was clear. I quickly stood up, dazed.
“Silly Shao’er,” After his surprise, Fang Hua stood up to hold up, somewhat at a loss as he wiped me off with his sleeves. “How could you be so careless?”

My robes were a bit wet, but as he cleaned me up, they quickly grew wetter, especially the clothing by my legs, which were stuck together and a bit cold.

“Why is you face so white? Is it heatstroke? I should have been more careful in this heat, and not give you something so cold. Look at me…so muddleheaded.”His movement speed increased.

It was a little painful…

I took a deep breath and pressed a hand against my stomach. He gave an exclamation of surprise, and slowly straightened, drawing up his sleeve to inspect the cloth. There were a few spots of blood by the cuffs. He raised his eyebrows and looked at me…
I gave a start.

The two of us couldn’t help but look down. It wasn’t unclear when my snow-white robes had become speckled with cherry blossoms. Bloody flowers covered the entire gown, scattered about by the water I’d poured over myself. It was extremely eye-catching… …

Curses.

I’m bleeding!

Chapter23

Seeing the bloodstains on my robe left me stunned.

The area by my thighs was bloated with a kind of pain that was hard to describe. My hands were propped against the stone table. I was already having trouble standing steadily, but then Fang Hua started taking a few steps towards me.

“You…”

I backed up a few steps. At a critical juncture like this, I dreaded him doing something that’d be hard for me to bear. Yet Fang Hua just took my hand and pulled me closer. “Stay still and don’t move.”

He gave me a gentle look, rolling up his sleeves as he bent down and smoothed out my robes with his hands.

My entire body shivered, and goosebumps rose on my skin. There was a gushing sensation from my stomach, and then something got wet. It was extremely shocking. I had no words beyond widening my eyes to stare at his innocent gaze.

He withdrew his hand to rub at the blood on his fingertips. The next words only added fuel to the fire. “You’re bleeding so much. It must be a severe injury.”

So he concluded.

Without stopping to wipe his hands, he stuck out two fingers and suddenly jabbed me in various places to check my pressure points. My breath was fragrant with the scent alcohol, but his movements made me swallow my words again.

“How is it? Better?” His face revealed an expression of thoughtful concern as he continued to observe my body.

I stood stunned for a while. “I don’t really feel anything.”

Looking down, I observed on various places of my snow-white robes were scattered three to four red fingerprints, clearing marking out the locations of various acupuncture points.

As if…

“Fang Hua, how can you just carelessly decide to stop the bleeding? Hurry up and unseal it.” Han Zichuan stood on one side, anxious yet impatient, feeling me all over.

“How come?” Fang Hua asked.
“Yeah, how come?” I asked dully. “I feel a lot more comfortable now.” “Don’t ask about so much nonsense, after all…” Han Zichuan’s neck
had turned red. He looked away and roughly grabbed Fang Hua’s hand, using it to cover me up. Fang Hua’s eyes rounded into a smile, and he instantly unsealed my pressure points.

“It really seems like he’s unreliable for these kind of things. I don’t even know how your yifu raised you until now.” Han Zichuan sucked in a breath, giving me an extremely odd look. He pinched my fingers between his own and said in a very low voice, “Go with me to the house, you clueless little spoon[1].”

But Fang Hua held me back, sorrowful. I was hesitant.
Han Zichuan’s eyebrows knitted as he rubbed his temples with one hand. It seemed like he was trying to think of something. His mouth twitched, uncertain of whether he should laugh, yet the look he gave me was firm. He leaned in to whisper in my ear, “You’re a girl, and yet you need a boy to teach you about these things.”

I blinked a few times. A coldness filled me up, and I became a lot more clearheaded. In fact, I was even beginning to understand him a little.

In the end, I somehow left Fang Hua standing there and ignorantly followed Han Zichuan into my room.

My clean and tidy quarters had a faint fragrance to them, mixed with the fresh scent of bamboo.

With his back to me, Zichuan wrung dry a handkerchief and brought it over with a basin of hot water. He looked at me once and said in a low voice, “Go behind the screen and clean yourself off, then change your clothes.”

“Oh.” I stood there unmoving, staring at his face. The areas ar

“Tsktsktsk…”

He stared at me in disbelief. “What are you clicking your tongue for?
Are you going or not…”

“You haven’t told me what kind of illness this is. How come yifu can’t cure it but you can?”

“You’re just asking me while knowing the answers.” But finally, he came out and said two words[2].

“Ah…I didn’t hear it, say it a little clearer,” I said with a smile.

“Your period came.” As before, the words were feeble and weak, but a little louder. He bit his lips and refused to say anymore, a little angry as he looked away. “Now hurry up, go change.”

I held back my smile and slipped behind the folding screen. I quickly washed down my body, but could resist peeking at Han Zichuan.

He took out numerous robes from my wardrobe, picking left and right as he arranged them on a low table. Raising his head, he looked around a few times before taking a knife out of nowhere and cutting my new clothes into strips of cloth.


What was he doing…

“Here, take this.”

A set of clean robes and a long length of silk, as well as two strips of cut cotton cloth…was handed over behind the screen doors. I stared at them, not quite understanding, and stuck my head out to ask him. “What’s the silk and strips of cloth for?”

“Stick it inside.” He gave me a look full of loathing, and rolled up his sleeves. “Do you need me to help you?”

I hurriedly replied, “Don’t, don’t, dont….”

Quickly, I shrank back behind the folding screen, pulling at the strips of cloth as I scratched my head, puzzled.

I didn’t get the point of it. Why did it turn out like this?
After the time it takes for an incense stick to burn, I could only silently look up at the skies…

My robes fell to my elbows, and I lifted my pants with my hands. Han Zichuan leaned down and used his dexterous hands to tie the length of silk around its waist with a knot. So it was like this. The length of silk was kept in place inside around my waist, and the strip of cloth was stuck between it and tied to both ends. Though it slipped around a bit, it could still stay in place with a bit of effort.

Amazing…

Han Zichuan was really amazing. Now, I understood.
I looked up at him with a reverent expression.

“Before I came here, I saw a lot of females at the imperial court. They all knew a lot more about this than you. Still…I’m not sure if this is quite how they did it.” He took the chance to tie my belt, shaking his head quietly. “This is from what I managed to piece together. Clueless little spoon, you have to learn it yourself in the future. It’s not proper for boys and girls to mingle, I’m not some Fang…” As soon as he said this, the door slammed open.

Fang Hua stood there, his countenance serene and elegant, but the indifferent gaze in his eyes carried a touch of depression as he shifted his gaze to the two of us. I stood dazed, and my usual call of yifu was suddenly stuck in my throat.

I quickly straightened out my robes.

“Fang Hua, you came.” Han Zichuan grabbed me by the shoulder and took me to greet him.

His eyebrows were long and dense, but his mood changed in the blink of an eye. When he raised his head again, his expression was gentle and mild, and he smiled. “I brought some pills over, though I’m not sure if they’ll be useful.”

As it turned out…

I glanced over, and saw that his arms were loaded with medicine. Fang Hua’s heart still had the intention to look after me. I was his only foster son.

My heart started thumping.

Han Zichuan seemed to have read my mind, because he placed his hand on Fang Hua’s shoulder next, and steered him outside. “There’s something I need to tell you…”

The two of them didn’t speak for very long.

When they finished, only Fang Hua returned, his expression as if in a trance.

I don’t know what Han Zichuan told him, but it gave me a measure of uneasiness.

“I’ve embarrassed you for all these years, Shao’er. I wasn’t a good yifu at all. There were so many things that were my oversight.” His face was pale and wan, his expression a bit faint. But the look in his eyes was as gentle and soft as a woman’s when he pressed a hand upon mine.

It felt as if a string was being plucked very tightly in my heart. I looked at him rather helplessly.
Actually, Fang Hua shouldn’t say things like this…

He took care of me because of a request from someone who passed away–his only friend. Perhaps he raised me as a boy because he picked up the wrong person from the start. If that was the case, the easy and comfortable life I led for the past ten years was good fortune I took from another.

Perhaps, Fang Hua was already aware from early on. Otherwise, why would he bring back a Han Zichuan?

The scene I saw with them playing the qin together, and the painting I once saw in his study[3], were similar…my heart suddenly sank with a growing bitterness.

“Yifu, Han Zichuan is…”

He raised his head, looking at me in surprise, before bending down with a smile. The mole at the corner of his eye was a dark red that seemed to grow darker, shaped as an imitation of a teardrop…a startling sight.

Slowly, he replied, “He is a very special person.”

-o-

Chapter24

I blinked a few times. Was this for me to wear? Why was it so girly?
JUNE 27, 2016RUYI

That day, Fang Hua told me a few other things, but my memory was too hazy to remember. My entire body felt dizzy and heavy, though I managed to hold on to one though: Han Zichuan was a very special person. Fang Hua thought he was very special.

I couldn’t describe the feelings I felt upon hearing those words…

I could only toss and turn on the bed, my eyes open the entire night. Dawn came around five to seven in the morning, when I heard a noise.
I tidied myself up a bit, tied my sash and opened the door, only to see Fang Hua standing outside, a fresh green willow branch behind his back. Soft light spilled on his person, creating a vision so beautiful that it seemed irreverent and profane to even set eyes on his person.

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” he smiled softly.

“Yifu, look at what you’re saying.” I didn’t even have time to move out of the way, or invite him in myself, before he brushed me aside and walked in. He looked around a bit, brows furrowing, before heading towards the bed. Lifting up his robes, he took a seat.


He really acted casually around me.

“Shao’er, why are you being so distant?” he raised his head and looked over, smiling as he patted the space beside him.

I did as told, sticking my butt to sit by a corner. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get closer.
Just, whenever I smelled the fragrance of flowers emanating off his person, I would start thinking of all sorts of foolish fancies, wondering exactly what the relationship was between him and Han Zichuan. Perhaps…

Han Zichuan was Fang Hua’s real foster son.

Fang Hua sighed and turned around. I gave a start, heart pounding. Truthfully speaking, I didn’t know when I started reacting like this. I only knew my pounding heart carried a feeling that was almost unbearable, yet hard to understand.

“Shao’er, look at you. You’re agitated again.”

I forced a smile. “Did yifu come looking for something from me?”

“I told Zichuan to prepare some clothes for you, see if they fit.” His hands touched a wrapped-up bundle of clothing resting on his knees.

“Yifu, the clothes you give me have all been too big. There’s still robes from last year in the wardrobe that I’ve been saving. I haven’t worn them yet.”

He smiled as he looked at me, trying to control his expression. Fingers trembling, he opened up the cloth packaging. Inside was a unique, brightly-colored pale pink fabric. Beneath that was a dark red silk embroidered with apricots and butterflies.

I blinked a few times. Was this for me to wear? Why was it so girly?
His eyes were gentle and soft as a woman’s. “Zichuan picked this, the measurements are unmistakable. time I’ll have him get me one too. This material is really beautiful.”

I seized the package, trembling as I spread it open to thoroughly appraise it. It was the type of clothing worn by gentle and graceful females.


“You really want something like this too?” I was highly doubtful. He didn’t reply, but took my hand and spoke.

“Shao’er, I didn’t think enough of you these few years. I neglected many things.” He tilted his head slightly, giving me another smile.

My heart violently shrank back.

Panicked, I quickly averted my eyes, feeling my ears burning. All I could
he

Yifu, you beautiful blockhead.

It’s not just females, but I bet all the men in the world who saw your face
would have the same reaction.

“What are you spacing out for? Why not hurry up and change into those clothes.”

I nodded and hid behind the folding screen, dazedly lifting the two layers of fabric. I moved them around a bit and finally slipped them on. It felt, a little weird.

Though I couldn’t tell exactly where…

Before when I put on my robes, they were wide and loose, with lots of extra space left over.

This time, I could only feel that these clothes were a bit tight. I lifted my hand, using my sleeve to cover my chest, and awkwardly walked back out.

He got up involuntarily from the bed, slowly looking me up and down, his eyes especially bright.

“What is it?” I tugged and pulled at the material. “Does yifu think it’s a bit strange?”

“I wouldn’t.” He gently stroked my face, smilingly softly. “Shao’er, you’ve really grown up.”

I blanked out.

He took my hands and brought me before the mirror, pressing lightly on my shoulders so I could sit down, and started to comb my hair…

Though I’d lived with Fang Hua for so long, he’d never been so intimate with me outside of occasional bouts during his drunken periods. The way he was acting now made me feel a little restless.

As seen in the bronze mirror, his bearing was refined and elegant. Though his face was filled with a harmonious warmth, he still exuded a tranquil mildness, and the teardrop-shaped mole at the corner of his eye was a dark red that startled one to see.

“Yifu…you…”

Recently, he’d been acting a little differently than usual. To be closer to a person was obviously a good thing…why did I feel so disturbed and extremely uneasy? He rolled up his sleeves and grabbed the wooden hairpin off the table, sticking it through my hair with a tilt of his head.

“Shao’er, I’d like to request one thing from you.”

I saw the careful, cautious expression on his face, leaning in so close to me. The two people in the mirror looked like they were about to touch.

His breaths brushed against my temples as a strong sense of joy rose within me. This feeling…was like a fine rain falling within my heart, carrying with it a sense of impatient anticipation.

Not just one request. Even if he asked for the hardest thing in the world, I’d still do it for him if I could.

I raised my face in excitement. “As long as yifu tells me to, I’ll do it.” “Is that so.” he smiled.
I hurriedly nodded my head. Even if it was something like taking off these clothes, I’d still do it…

“Let me check your pulse…”

Confused, I nevertheless gave him my hand.

His eyes brightened, “Can you describe you symptoms to me?”

“Swollen stomach, sore muscles in the legs, occasional stomachaches…”

“That’s really, really, wonderful.” I don’t know where he got ink, brush and paper from as he recorded these details, the other hand still feeling my pulse. He raised his eyes to look at me with great eagerness. “What else?”


I really want to find someone to squash him. Even if I squashed him, my anger still wouldn’t be satisfied.

Thus, I was subjected to his repeated questions for the time it takes three incense sticks to burn.

He still had enough stamina to ask about this and that, but refrained from a physical examination. I endured…. ….I endured until it was unbearable…. ….up to the point where I started thinking of ways to drug him into slumber.

Then, he suddenly stood up.

In the midst of rejoicing and standing up, I smiled at him and said, “Yifu, are you hungry? Getting ready to break off some flower stems and willow branches?”

He turned to look at me, eyes curving. “I have to go to the market and see if there’s any medical manuals for sale.”

You… …

You still wanted to read medical manuals at your level?

You, who could make up pills on a whim, that were worth two taels of gold?

“Although I was aware that two types of humans existed in the outside world, I never knew the boys and girls Zichuan mentioned were so different. From pbserving your pulse during this period of time, I can tell the differences are subtle, but too intriguing for words.”

Look at this guy… He’s so excited.
“Can’t you just find things out from my pulse?”

“I want to read some books about women expecting children, and how much medicine I should prescribe for females.” —

I can’t help you there.

I looked away wordlessly.

He slowly turned, as if readying to leave.

Suddenly, I widened my eyes, remembering something. Within these streets… …there were probably people looking for a person with a teardrop-shaped mole. If yifu went out, looking so beautiful and enticing, Nongyu would definitely find him.

“I’ll go I’ll go I’ll go… …yifu, you make a list, and I’ll buy it for you.”

He smiled, as if only too anxious to do so.

Seeing him deliberate for the sake of saving silver, writing and crossing out titles of books again and again with a reluctant expression… …I began to feel distressed for him in my heart.

This guy.

I had two taels of gold. Two taels! Of gold!!!
I tugged the paper out of his hands, retracing the titles he’d crossed out. I blew off the spots of ink on the paper and placed it inside my robes. He just looked at me with a lenient smile.

But who knew how pained his heart was inside…at the thought of losing the household’s silver.

I knew early on that he was lazy when it came to concocting pills.

I’m guessing that in order to acquire my new clothes, he spent most of the household silver. I sucked in a breath.

After a few days, I should just dig up the gold I buried in the dirt. Even if I kept it buried…it’s not like it’d sprout another two taels.

So thinking, my steps grew light, and I gallantly ran to town, just thinking of how I’d secretly dig up the stash of gold leaves and paper money buried beneath the Wutong tree.

But…

I thought it was strange.

Clearly I’d left home alone to buy the medical manuals, so why was Han Zichuan following behind me? And he kept staring so earnestly towards my back, enough for his gaze to turn me numb. Though, speaking of which, I suddenly realized…

The people in town were acting oddly too. One by one, refined-looking young men walked past me, their eyes filled with lust… …it made me feel… …

I couldn’t help but tremble a bit.

Han Zichuan grabbed my hand just in time, his eyes scanning my face.

“I don’t even know if dressing you like this was good for you, or hurtful.” Afterwards, he lightly pinched my hand. “Remember, you’re a girl. Would any girl walk as carelessly and casually as this?”


“What are you doing here?”

He smiled. “Only Fang Hua would be fine with you coming out alone in front of all these men.”

Suddenly, his eyes spotted something behind me, and he said happily,
“Wait a bit, I’m going to buy something.” “What are you buying…”

In a flash, he had disappeared, only leaving the cloth sign in front of the shop to proclaim its wares in the wind… …eee? A store for selling rouge?

Hmph, how could he have any money. This, he was hiding a pouch of money!!! Disgraceful…
When we got back, I was going to tell Fang Hua. My feelings of discontent… …it surged within my heart… …I couldn’t speak anymore.

Suddenly, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned around, and happened to see Nongyu standing there with a fan, a big crowd of people following him as usual. The joy on his face, coupled with the stunned look in his eyes, was indescribable. “It’s really you… … Younger Brother Shào[1]?”

“Or perhaps I should call you…” he skillfully snapped his fan and drew closer with a smile. “Younger Sister Shào?”

What young brother, younger sister things are you babbling about. I’m not that close[2] with you.
“Who are you waiting for?” he looked around us.

“Of course I’m waiting for…” I smiled back, “My beloved.”

The smile on his face became a little forced.

“Shao’er, let’s go.” Han Zichuan was holding something in a red paper bag as he emerged from the store. His eyes happened to land on Nongyu, and his face froze. Nongyu’s reaction was even more exaggerated. For a long time, he stared at Han Zichuan with a stricken expression, face filled with amazement. Clutching his fan, he suddenly swept aside his robes and fell to his knees.

“Your servant pays respects to His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince.”

Thumping noises rang out all around us… Everyone was kneeling.
-o-

Chapter25

When did this ‘crown prince’ pop up?

The person that had been with me day after day for all these years, was actually the crown prince?

In a trance, I looked at his profile, noting the handsome eyebrows drawn like a mountain and river painting[1], the smooth, thin lips, the aura of steadfast resolution…

It left my thoughts in disorder.

Why had I never noticed that he carried the air of monarch about him?

Nngh…All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

The more I looked, the more it seemed that way. I could see many people kneeling around us.
The noise and bustle of the town, along with its civilians, had all disappeared. The deserted streets were chilly and desolate, and seemed a bit bleak. Han Zichuan’s eyes swept over Nongyu without a word. He only placed the red bag of rouge into my hands, and said lightly, “I’m sorry I couldn’t buy you a nicer one. When I return to the imperial palace…”

He didn’t say any more, but took my head and gave me a long look. I bit my lip and wanted to laugh, but found myself suddenly lacking the energy. These things had already surpassed my level of comprehension. My head was in a fog as he pulled me past the crowd of kneeling people. Like thus, I befuddledlby followed him and all the rest back to the house.

Han Zichuan shook off the large crowd to enter Fang Hua’s room alone.
I was the only one left to serve these gentlemen.

“…Younger Sister Shào,” Nongyu said, holding his cup. “It’s full.”

Only then did I react and look back…

Exactly as he said, the water was overflowing from the cup.

He hastily rose to his feet, using his sleeve to wipe away the splatters on his clothing. “You devious girl, you lied to me about waiting for your beloved. As it turned out, he was our crown prince.”

Even though he spoke casually, he was anything but ambiguous when it came to shaking out the water. I hurriedly backed up a few steps, afraid to get wet as I used one hand to shield the porcelain teapot. My smile was a bit strained. “I beg your pardon[2].”

But he only smiled at me. What…
Did you want me to clean you up? Hmph, you’re not even my yifu.
Nongyu deserved the title of a man who had walked away from death[3] because his self-control was remarkable. He looked down and bustled about a bit before lifting his robes and retaking a seat. Then he rolled up a sleeve and pointed at one of the inner rooms.

“Your yifu has a teardrop-shaped mole.”

“…..”All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies. “I heard he’s a Fang Hua Beast?”

“…..”All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Old fellow, so what if he was? I’m not going to tell you anything. He smiled, and grabbed my hand with his own.
“Younger Brother Shào.” His tone was suddenly extravagantly tender, the tone carrying an upward tilt. There was a significant look in his eyes… that was rather flippant. “Did you forget? We became sworn brothers, so how could you bully your Brother Nong?”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Can I knock him out with the teapot…? I really want to.
My fingers itched…I felt flustered holding myself back…but I endured and didn’

“Young Master Nong, regarding the promise to be sworn brothers–I remember Shao’er agreed to no such thing.”

He only smiled, pausing for a bit before speaking. “Fortunately, you didn’t agree back then, or else…I’d regreeeeet itttt.” He intentionally drew out the last three words. And then, he grabbed my hands again, head lowered as his eyelashes fluttered twice.

I stared at him.

His curved fingers gently stroked my palms, the movements slow and sluggish. Despite this, his grip was firm, preventing me from pulling away.

“What are you doing?” I blinked. He looked at me with sweeping eyelashes as his eyes widened slightly: part angry, part resentful. And then his hands grew more furtive as he stroked mine, thoroughly delighted.

Talk about taking liberties…

This was taking liberties to a very high scale.

I looked around at the people who’d came with him. All of them had their heads bowed low in complete indifference.

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Very good. Very big and powerful.

You think you can take liberties with a woman like this?

I was raised by Fang Hua. What kind of trials and hardships haven’t I faced?

I clapped him on the shoulder, rolling my eyes. Then I pulled up my sleeves in a way that was three parts ruffian and seven parts elegant, and touched his face in front of all the spectators.

It was obvious to tell when he jerked, as if frightened.

I leaned over, thoroughly enjoying myself as I touched him again, and said extremely lewdly, “Even tofu can’t compare to your little white cheeks.”

He gave a start, and a mist rose in his pupils as he settled into a smile.

The entire room fell into silence. After a long while, he opened his mouth to speak.

“This has to count as skinship[4].” What ‘ship’ nonsense, you think just touching each other is skinship? Then wouldn’t the two guys in this house count as me keeping pets? I waved my hands, wanting to extricate myself, but he stuck to my face, clinging to them. There was a joking gleam in his eyes.

Curses…

Suddenly, the door to the inner room opened, and I used about a third of my internal energy to shake him off. I didn’t even have time to catch in what elegant way he managed to topple to the ground.

Unobstructed…I charged into Fang Hua’s room.

As it turned out, I came just in time to hear Han Zichuan speak. “…that’s good too, then we’ll return to the palace within the next few days.”

Ah…

Go back to the palace?

I glanced downwards. Han Zichuan’s hand rested on Fang Hua’s long, slender one by his robes. The scene was particularly soft and graceful, but also extremely offensive to the eye. I took a deep breath and opened my mouth.

Wait, something’s not quite right…

Fang Hua actually agreed to go back to the palace with him?!

-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] mountain and river painting (⼭⽔) −shanshui, literally “mountain” and “water”. However, together shanshui is shorthand for ⼭ ⽔ 画(shanshuihua), a genre of landscape painting in China. These paintings are
known for their sweeping vistas and elegant brushwork, so Shao’er is basically saying Han Zichuan’s eyebrows are like living art personified. [2] I beg your pardon (对不住) −duibuzhu, basically “I’m sorry,” but in more polite, humble speech. It has the same meaning of “I’ve been unworthy and done your a disservice,” “excuse me/pardon me.”

[3] walked away from death ( ⼫⾥出来) −shili chulai, “emerge from the corpse”, probably in regards to how boldly he’d faced the crown prince in the previous chapter. You definitely, certainly, must show respect to the
imperial family, because they can end your life with literally one word (斩[zhan], or “behead”). Nongyu escaped unscathed though, so it’s like he became a dead man walking. Or something like that.

[4] skinship (肌肤之亲) −jifuzhiqin, “skin and muscle”, “of intimacy”, the intimacy of skin, especially between a man and a woman.

Chapter26

Fang Hua actually agreed to go back to the imperial palace with Han Zichuan…

I stood dazed, but he just turned away.

“Brother Shao, go pack up the things in the room,” Han Zichuan’s eyes reflected warmth as they turned to me.

“Okay…”All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Fang Hua didn’t speak to stop me, or object to the familiarity in Han Zichuan’s actions. On a typical day, even if a half-dead person was lying outside the bamboo forest yelling for help, he’d still be too lazy to save them. So why was he getting involved now?

Could it be because the person asking him was…Han Zichuan?

The room was very quiet and spacious. But now that both of them were standing, the space suddenly became narrow, and I felt like a unnecessary addition… There was a piece of my heart that felt as if it was being pulled taut, making it hard to breathe.

I   couldn’t   say   what   kind   of    sensation    this    was.    Besides being uncomfortable, I also felt a bitter sort of pain that was hard to describe. I turned around and inhaled deeply, my hands clenched into fists.

I should. Start packing.All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies. I didn’t know how long this trip to the palace would take. I’d have to pack my two sets of robes (the ones I took turns washing), and yifu’s usual collection of wonder pills, and…

My gaze swept the corners of the room.

Yifu didn’t eat mortal food, so I should prepare something fresh for him on the road like picking something that was juicy and sweet…

“Shao’er.” Fang Hua took my sleeve and held me in place, speaking softly. “It’s Zichuan and I that are going to the palace, do you understand?”

They’re not taking me…?

I trembled, turning around to look at Han Zichuan.

“Why leave her alone in the house?” Han Zichuan seemed to be very surprised. His eyes blinked, and he gave an uncertain glance in Fang Hua’s direction. The two of them stared at each other for a while before he tacitly complied. Nothing more was said on the matter.

“I’ll go put things in order so you prepare the carriage, and we’ll leave in a bit.” Fang Hua finished, before closing the door and leaving. A splash of sunlight illuminate his form outside the rooms, making his figure hazy and indistinct.

There was something in my heart…

…slowing sinking towards the bottom.

“Brother Shao.” A pair of hands lightly rested on my shoulders. Han Zichuan drew closer and smiled. “This is just how Fang Hua is. When he decides on something, nothing can change his mind.”

“But you somehow convinced him to go to the palace to cure your father, didn’t you?” His smile grew gloomy, but he didn’t reply, only saying in a soft tone,
“I’ll come visit you often.”

What a joke…

Whether or not you visit has nothing to do with me. The only person I want is yifu.
I pushed him aside and rushed out, leaving him standing in place. I didn’t linger to see his expression, because if I did…everything might have had a different result.

I held back the anger in my heart and returned to my room. I turned the wardrobe upside down to collect an armful of clothing, and went to look for Fang Hua, room by room.

He was standing by the window in the study, lost in thought. A cloth covered the low table, and on it were two very plain sets of robes. He didn’t see to care much when he saw me, but only started packing a

“Yifu, allow me to do these.”All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

“I won’t trouble you.” His refusal was clean and final.

My emotions left me unable to utter a word, and I stood on one side, at a loss. I sadly went to his side and sprawled on the table, indignantly watching as he stuffed bottles and jars into the bag…those long, slender fingers lovingly caressing each one.

A few of the objects inside were his favorites, but there was nothing that belonged to me…

I pulled out a book, meaning to throw it away, but held myself back. I glanced at him. While he wasn’t paying attention, I took the chance to stuff one of my robes into his bundle. “Why are you bothering to do this…?” he sighed. His eyes raised to look at me, chilly as moonlight like always. His hands pressed down against mine and he grabbed the robes, mercilessly hauling it back out.

“Yifu…” All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

I stubbornly grabbed the robes, as if my only hope laid in snatching it back. Although Fang Hua never said it, I knew he held tender affections for me. After living together for so many years, we were used to each other’s presence.

But why didn’t he want me now?

He was going to accompany Han Zichuan to the palace… He was going to leave me all alone in this house.
Did he really not need me anymore?

There were countless things I still hadn’t thought over throughly, but I still had no self-confidence. He slowly tugged away the robes I was trying to hold in place. My heart ached with a burning pain.

Under his continued scrutiny, I grew more and more unsure of myself. A person had no energy to rebel against that firm gaze. His inflexibility quelled any attempts to stuff in my things. The robes were taken out, and the traveling bag secured. Throughout it all, he remained calm and expressionless. Even his eyes betrayed no emotions.

I’d long abandoned the idea of figuring everything out. I only felt that he was leaving me in very sore straits.

“Yifu…” I clutched at Fang Hua’s arm, my head bowed. “I just want to ask you one thing.”

“Speak.”All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies. “Have you already decided to abandon Shao’er?”

He remained silent, not speaking a word. My grip loosened, and I released his sleeves.

“Shao’er understands.” At this moment, my heart started aching again. It felt as if something was caught in my chest, as if just speaking would make my cry.

“Shao’er, no…you don’t understand.”

He gave me a concentrated look, eyes flooded with a soft light. “You’ve grown up now. You   can’t   always   be   like   a   child   and   follow your yifu around. Your internal energy isn’t bad, and you have a good grasp of poisons.” He slowly scooped up my hands, patting them a few times.

Those eyebrows rose with his smile as he tried to soothe me. “You’ve always listened to what I said. Yifu hopes that after you leave me, you’ll make a good name for yourself living in the jianghu[1].”

Muttering to himself, his eyes slowly looked over me. “The jianghu is free and unfettered, leisurely and carefree. It’s much more fun than the imperial palace.”

He stood before me now, nothing like the him of the past, speaking to me in such an earnest, fatherly, tone.

He’s my yifu…my foster father.

After all these years, I’d grown up. But he still looked as same as the day he picked me up from the rundown temple. The Heavens looked favorably upon him, and the passing years did nothing to leave a mark on his face…

Standing together now, we looked about the same age. And yet, his heart was as hard as ever. He said the jianghu was better than the palace, but he–but he knew– exactly how I felt.

The jianghu of a single person isn’t a jianghu at all. Stricken, I stood dazed for a while.
“It’s settled. I’ll cure Han Zichuan’s father’s illness and then return here,” he smiled gently at me.

“Shao’er…will…” I turned my head away, half-facing him. My sentence came word by word. “…wait here for you.”

A gust of wind blew in from the window. He kept his smile. The dark red mole beneath his eye resembled a teardrop.

Osmanthus drifted in on the breeze to rest against his shoulder, carrying with it a sweet-smelling fragrance. I started to raise my hand and brush it off, but he moved away from me. Awkwardly, my hand withdrew, and I lowered my eyes in disappointment.

I kept feeling that after he entered the palace, he might not come back…

-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] jianghu ( 江湖) −”rivers and lakes”–but that’s the literal definition. Of course we’re talking about the wide, wide world and all corners of the country, especially the *cough* lawless areas that heroes travel to
in wuxia/xianxia series. Battles! Treasure! Adventure! Beautiful wo–well, beautiful men for Shao’er, I guess~

Chapter27

Someone knocked lightly against the door.

I hurriedly turned away, rubbing my face with my sleeves.

Nongyu leaned against the doorframe outside, looking at me. His tone was flippant. “The carriage is already outside with the crown prince waiting in it. When will the beautiful person join him?”

Fang Hua wasn’t angry, but swept over him with a light gaze.
“Everything’s been packed up. I’ll go now.”

“Yifu…” I tugged at his sleeve, extremely reluctant.

He released himself to scoop up the bundle on the table and gently stepped outside.

From within the carriage, Han Zichuan was just raising the screen when he spotted me. He gave me a long gaze, his eyes filled a reluctance to part and a deeply indescribable, indistinct emotion.

“You have to take care of m-my yifu, you hear me?” I gave him a ferocious stare.

He only smiled at me. All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

My eyes swept over, and settled on Fang Hua again with a tangled expression. He seemed to pause, eyes reluctantly looking over the residence as if he didn’t want to leave. Yet he entered the carriage without looking at me.

“We’ll be taking our leave,” Nongyu sat astride his horse, looking at me thoughtfully. Then he whipped his horse and galloped off in a cloud of dust.

I forced back the tears threatening to leak from my eyes. I wanted to ask yifu to stay behind, but I could only watch helplessly as the carriage vanished into the distance.

From start to finish… All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Fang Hua hadn’t spared me a single glance. Neither did he leave me any silver.
I took a long breath, returning to the house covered in dust. I plopped on a chair and scooped up a cup from the table, pouring myself a cup of water. I downed it in one gulp, my heart filled with frustration.

But at the same time, I wanted to laugh.

It was fine if I didn’t have silver. Fortunately, I’d buried a sizable secret stash of money that could finally come in hand.

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

This Fang Hua.

He thought I’d obediently listen to his words? What a joke…
The greatest joke in the Heavens! I stuck a hand on my waist and laughed out loud, laughing until I felt a bitter pain. Fang Hua definitely foresaw that I’d secretly follow after them if he left me any silver. Han Zichuan must have used some way to convince him to go to the palace so docilely.

He was already a handful here. How could Fang Hua follow him so willingly to court?

Even though I had no idea what the palace was like, I’d heard enough from the storytellers on my trips to the marketplace. The current old man emperor was immoderately licentious, frequently raising taxes that forced the people into poverty. This I knew very well. I remember when I was a beggar, it was even common to see people eating other people.

I poured myself more water while thinking things over.

One hand rested on my forehead, my eyebrows knitted, fingers poking my skin…

Truthfully speaking, the emperor rarely came to court in recent years. The affairs of the country were in the hands of the ministers, and the lives of the common people had improved day by day. If I hadn’t met Nongyu last time, I wouldn’t have known that someone had poisoned the emperor, even though this was just a conclusion drawn from a few isolated words and phrases. But I think…it was about eight or nine-tenths of the truth.

From my

Since this palace had someone poison the emperor with none the wiser, it had to be a person with extraordinary abilities. Now that Fang Hua was going to save him, things would bode ill for him[2].

Moreover, the imperial harem was filled with so many beautiful women living by themselves.

Who knew how much chaos he would incite as soon as he entered the palace? What would the imperial concubines think of him?

Hnn. You don’t want me to go? Not possible!
Old geezer, I’ve got plenty of money.

I suppress a stomach full of anger as I started digging in the dirt…piling up layers and layers of paper money and shiny gold leaves.

I grinned from the corners of my mouth.

In these days, everything was easier if you had money. But…
I soon discovered I was mistaken.

It took around a dozen days of work and thought to make it to the palace gates.

I changed into a set of clean robes and assumed the air of a clever, lovely girl to hand over my silver. Originally I planned to behave myself and get a job as a servant girl. But the eunuch in charge practically salivated greed. His oily hands ran over and over my golden leaves, feeling especially happy. In the end, he fixed his eyes to stare at me, before circling around a few times to look me up and down. His eyes rolled around in circles before he spoke in a shrill and piercing voice.

“Girl, why don’t you wait a few more days. They’re selecting court ladies then, and you have the makings of an imperial concubine.”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

The old man emperor was already confined to bed, who said he’s gonna pick any court ladies.

If I entered the palace as a court lady and the emperor died, wouldn’t I be forced into seclusion as a widowed nun? Pah!

That old lecher sure had a well-deserved reputation with officials like these…even a castrated eunuch was still so obscene.

And thus.

I looked at the aging face leaning my way, and knocked him senseless with a wave of my sleeve. Then I forcefully wrested away the gold leaves in his hands and snatched back the paper money from his robes.
I returned to my inn and gave a small sigh to the reflection in the mirror. There was something about beautiful women suffering unhappy fates.
My eyebrows were eyebrows, my eyes were eyes…but both were extremely attractive…who knew what kind of trouble I’d have if I entered the palace like this. It’d be better to ruin my looks.

Thus, I pinched some medicinal powder and casually smeared it over myself. It itched and burned and made my skin feel numb.

I lied on the bed, tossing and turning before I fell asleep. The next day, my face had turned swollen.

I went back to the palace gates again. Before I could see the eunuch in charge…I was laughed away by the guards…

All of them kept saying, if you look like this, we’re afraid you’ll scare the emperor!

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

So I can’t be beautiful or ugly. What do you want me to do?
In a fit of rage, I poisoned them all again. Originally, I wanted to walk off with their money as well. But I happened to see the open palace gates in the distance…and the group of guards patrolling the entrance.

I held myself back, and returned to the inn. In my room I paced back and forth, extremely anxious.

To tell you the truth, it was easy for me to poison people, and I knew a bit about saving them too…but I’d never learned the art of changing my appearance. Disheartened, I sat down and stared at my reflection in the mirror, thinking long and hard for over half the day.

Suddenly, I gave a start, blinking.

From the depths of my robes I took out a few bottles, shaking out a few samples of medicinal powders. After applying them for three days, there was finally some effect.

At last, my face looked a little more ordinary. It was just that…
The powders I’d dissolved in water to form my mask looked a little unnatural on my face. It always felt a little stiff when I tried to talk or smile…

But these looks finally got me into the imperial palace.

Honestly speaking, the people in the imperial court had really seen much of the world. They didn’t budge at small change, but demanded piles and piles of paper money instead.

This was all to get a few connections up and down the chain of hierarchy… In this way I spent all the money I’d grubbed from Nongyu.

I hid a bitter heart as I gazed at the eunuch in charge, making marks with his brush as he flipped through a record book. He suddenly raised his head and looked back, smiling as he muttered, “You said you know a bit about medicines?”

I lowered my head and obediently replied. “Yes.” “Perfect. These few days a person of indeterminate position has been arranged to cure His Majesty’s illness. The imperial physicians just happen to be extremely short of hands. How about you go there?”

Ah…

Hey, a chance!

-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] Jiuzu (九族) −”nine degrees of kindred”, or the “nine generations,” shorthand for a punishment in which one’s great-great-great grandfather to one’s great-great-great grandson, or 4 generations of one’s paternal relations
+ 3 generations of one’s maternal relations + 2 generations of one’s wife’s relations…were all executed as punishment for a crime. Considering how much ancient Chinese valued family ties/names/ancestors, this was a fearful punishment, usually reserved for the most serious crimes (especially those against the imperial family)!

[2] bode ill for him (凶多吉少) − xiongduo jishao, or “be fraught with grim possibilities”, have “more inauspicious/ominous” things and “less auspicious/lucky” things

Chapter28

Three days later.

“Use this prescription to simmer these medicines, the imperial physician’s waiting impatiently,” a 13 to 14 year old eunuch hailed me with his hand.

“Yes.”

I pinched the paper between my fingers and gave it a glance. The written words were like flying dragons and dancing phoenixes. Tian Shan Mountain Snow Lotus, Thousand-Year Ginseng…though the ingredients for the pill were incomparably rare, their effects were rather ordinary.

“Hey…where are you going?” the young eunuch stopped me with an arm.

I raised my eyes and lazily replied, “Didn’t you tell me to boil some medicine?”

“Wrong, wrong!” he stomped his foot, knocking me with one finger. “The imperial physicians each take turns serving in the palace. Understand?”

I was clueless.

“Let me put it this way,” he looked around, then drew close to speak in a soft voice. “Today’s physician is really hard to please. He doesn’t want any of his prescriptions to be made in the pill room furnace, because he has to personally dictate the times and temperatures for the fire. So for this pill, we have to go to his place and have him watch us make it. Only then can we give it to the master.”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

How ludicrous.

This wasn’t something for the emperor, so was there a need to go so far?

“Why aren’t you hurrying up…what are you spacing out for?” he gave me a disdainful glance. “Aish, forget it…a newbie girl like you definitely doesn’t understand palace rules. Come on, I’ll show you the way so you can learn a little something. Gong gong’s[1] got lots of things to take care of, so I’ll only teach you once.”

“Thank you, gong gong.” I lowered my head, gathered my ingredients, and straightened. The whole way I followed him left and right, he swished his robes with a haughty air.

Can someone explain to me what this eunuch was acting so arrogantly about to my face….?

Did he think that if I got annoyed enough to poison him, he’d get a new life after being dead and turn into a man?

Ah. Pah!

He suddenly came to a stop and turned around to look at me. “What about you chattering about behind my back?”

I had a sudden moment of panic.

“To answer gong gong’s question, I was saying…” My thoughts were in a knot before I calmed myself down. Suddenly, a fresh scent floated over on the air, and I assumed a posture of sniffing for something. “It’s smells very nice inside this courtyard.” “You haven’t experienced much,” he backed up a few steps, scooping up his sleeves to point somewhere to my left. “Do you see there…there’s a pond full of blooming red lotuses. Of course it’ll smell nice.”

“Is this the season for red lotuses to bloom?” I was unconvinced. I counted off with my fingers, wondering if I’d remember the time wrong…

“It’s not,” his reply was concise and to the point. A glance swept my way, before he added, “Two days after the crown prince brought back some beautiful stranger, all the flowers bloomed in this pond.”

Tsk. Tsk, tsk. All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

No wonder…looks like our Fang Hua had some skills.

Beautiful, it really was beautiful… Every flower like a flower, every petal like a petal.

I placed the ingredients for the medicine aside, and leaned

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?!”

Fang Hua liked to eat lotuses, but the ones by our house were usually pure and white as snow. I’d never seen such a warm, stunning shade of red…

I have to pick one so yifu can taste it.

“Gong gong, you go on first,” I was sprawled on the ground, hand reaching out beyond the banisters. “I’ll find you after I pick one.”

He grew nervous, looking around anxiously. Utterly discomfited, he grabbed at my sleeves as if his life depended on it. “You can’t, you can’t pick it…hurry up and stand up.”

Ah… All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies. You can’t pick it.

I already plucked one…and it was gorgeous, with a huge stem.

“The flowers in the palace isn’t something you can just pluck so casually! If you do that, then…” he leaned in, making a slicing motion at his throat as he spoke in a very small voice. Then he back up quite a few steps with an expression that clearly said the rest was up to me.

“What…they’ll behead people? Curses, why didn’t you say anything earlier, gong gong?!” I was shocked.

“Hush, what are you make a fuss for? Lower your voice,” the little eunuch covered my mouth with a hand.

Suddenly, the sound of rapid footsteps came rushing from the shrubbery.
I looked at him…and he blinked, before releasing me.

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Panicking, I hurriedly stuffed the fresh lotus inside my robes. It felt a little cold…I shook myself a few times and my neck shrank back, goosebumps showing on my skin.

The little eunuch had a good heart, and hastily bent over to collect the medicinal ingredients, placing them into my hands. He pulled me over to stand by him and squeezed my hand, speaking in a low voice. “Be mindful and follow what gong gong does. Don’t give yourself away.”

I gave him a dumbfounded look, but when our gazes met, there was an implicit understanding.

The tree branches were brushed aside, and a bright yellow robe appeared before our eyes. Since my gaze was lowered, I didn’t dare to see who it was. The little eunuch carefully tugged at me, and I ignorantly copied his kowtow. He said your servant greets His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince, and I was filled with a sense of disaster as if thunder was striking my head.

No way…

It was just a flower, is it really worth…the attention of such an important person?

I kept kneeling, timid.

, I felt someone sweeping their gaze over me before resting on something else.

I lifted my eyes and snuck a peek.

Han Zichuan was neatly attired as a crown prince, a string of pearls hanging from the top of his headpiece. His court dress was embroidered with five dragons, his waist belt ornamented with fine jade, his comportment filled with the air of an aristocrat. It made him even more handsome, if not for the disappointment on his face. His gaze looked around as if searching for something.

“Your highness, why did you suddenly run so quickly?” a court lady emerged from the bushes, wiping away her sweat. “The ministers are still waiting for you on the side.”

His sigh was especially melodious, making him all the more striking.

“Maybe I heard wrong. How could that person be in the palace?”
There was a gloomy look in his eyes as he turned. “Let’s go.”

That was a close call…

I watched his retreating form, my hands shaking so much I couldn’t even stand.

“Luckily, we weren’t discovered. Though it’s a small matter if you die, I’d still be tied to a plank and beaten.” the young eunuch’s face was ghastly pale as he helped me up.

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

This not-boy not-girl sure knew how to say unpleasant things.

He gave me the cold shoulder for the whole trip as he led me to the wing of a residence. From a very far distance, I could already smell the dense, thick scent of medicine.

The door to the house was softly pushed open, and a wave of heat emerged.

Two rows of pots were currently roasting over fires, tended to by fourteen servants squatting on the ground, fanning the flames.

It was a grand sight…

The lighting was a bit dim indoors, with only a single stream of sunshine coming through the windows. There was a person overseeing the group while reading a volume in his hands. Occasionally, he’d fan himself, seeming leisurely and carefree.

The young eunuch pushed me forward and gave me a Look.

Instead, I stood stunned, surveying the person before me. His finger was slender and attractive, as well as a little familiar.

“Lord Nong, your servant has brought over the medicine you requested,” the eunuch said, pinching the side of my waist.

“Ow,” I blurted. But realizing this wasn’t the time, I hurriedly shut my mouth, eyes blinking.

He turned around, raising his eyebrows as if he wanted to ascertain something from my face. His tone was light as he spoke. “Put the ingredients into the fifteenth pot and heat it over a slow fire.” “Yes, sire.”

I backed out with my body bent over.

But as soon as I turned around, I was gritting my teeth. How unlucky…I ran into all the people I didn’t want to see.

This hateful Nongyu, why did he do things so complicatedly…it was just boiling some medicine, so why did it have to be pot number 15? I dumped everything inside, splashing myself slightly with water.

Huh…

Its flavor tasted a little different. Maybe they added things in.
I used a sleeve to wipe away the water on my face and sniffed it, before I smiled.

This was pretty smart. Boiling Tian Shan Snow Lotus only fortified the body, but adding in extracts from the Dew of One Hundred Blossoms Pill gave it an extra effect of dispelling poisons.

Looks like…

He knew a few tricks of the trade.

Squatting on the ground, I felt a bit bored as I waved my fan back and forth, watching the fire.

I looked both ways before leaning closer to the fire to warm my clothing. The lotus I’d stuffed inside before had been cold and wet, enough to soak my inner robes and make me uncomfortable.

I pinched the front of my clothes and shook it out a few times.

Then my hand leisurely snaked into and felt around for a bit before my expression changed. My hand slipped out…I didn’t know when, but the lotus inside my robes had lost all its petals, which had scattered over my hands.

What a pity…

And I’d wanted to bring it to yifu.

“What are you doing? Pay more attention.” the person next to me gave a shove.

“Yes,” I sucked in a breath and hastily hid the remains in my robes. There was a cold sensation behind my back, as if someone was staring my way. The fire was blazing hot, and I grew thoughtful as I fanned it back and forth, trying to steal a peek.

Strange.

Everyone was minding their own business… Could it be that I was hallucinating?
“All right, it’s about time. Leave the rest to me to finish.” A clear, refreshing voice rose about the heat in the room, making everyone who heard it feel extremely comfortable.

Nongyu lowered his book with a smile, and waved his hand. The servants all lowered their heads and started trailing out. I copied them.

Before I reached the door, though…

A pair of boots appeared below my eyes, and its owner noiselessly blocked the exit.

“You…”

Nongyu leaned in, eyes curved into a smile as he spoke softly.

“…stay here.” -o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] Gong gong (公公) −title used by eunuchs to refer to themselves in third person.

Chapter29

I covered my face.

A light laugh drifted over, and a hand appeared before me as a shadow fell across my form. I jerked and wanted to run, but there was no way out.

“What are you hiding for…?” Nongyu’s elbow was propped up against the door behind me, dashingly posing as he spoke softly. “Carry over the pills to me.”

…who does he think he’s ordering around? My eyes darted around the room.
“What are you goggling at? There’s just the two of us here, and this medicine has to be secretly delivered to the Noble Consort[1]. Don’t tell me you expect me to do it personally?”

I thought he’d seen through me.

So it looked like he just wanted me to deliver some pills. Say it earlier so I won’t get nervous for nothing!
I turned sideways, bending down to duck beneath his arms and respectfully pour the pills into a bowl. It was easier to work while kneeling on the ground, and I held the medicine with both hands as I walked towards him. He didn’t say a word, but opened the doors to lead the way. Sunlight splashed against him, illuminating the tall and graceful form. He half-turned his head to look at me out of the corner of his eye, and it looked as if he was smiling.

Maybe I’m overthinking, but he kept reminding me of a no-good weasel.

He selected a different covered corridor with exquisite, complicated turns. Water lapped at us from both sides, and lotuses grew in their depths.

No wonder this was the imperial palace…everywhere looked like something out of a beautiful painting. And no wonder Fang Hua would agree to come, when the flowers here outnumbered the ones outside by multiples. Even if he ate as much as he wanted, he’d still have enough meals to last him seven lifetimes.

“Why haven’t I seen you before? Are you a new recruit?” he turned his body towards me with a slow grin.

The imperial physician Nongyu took liberties with ladies of respectable families in the outside world…would he really pay attention to every single servant girl?

But my hands were figuratively tied, so I bowed.

“Yes, sire. This one was brought in a few days ago. Gong gong said that the imperial physicians needed more hands.”

He nodded, casually shaking out his robes as he casually asked, “How many people are in your family?”

“My mother, my younger brother, and an elder over 80 years old,” I recited back.

In any case…in any case, it was all true.

He raised his eyebrows with a veiled smile, intently focused on me as if he was considering something. It made a person…apprehensive. A patrol group passed by us, and he took a deep breath. After the armed guards were out of sight, he grabbed my hand. My eyes widened, and I caught a glance of his own smiling ones as he led me around a corner. Immediately afterwards, my body was pressed against a cool stone wall.

“You still like to tell such blatant lies…” his body pressed forwards, and he muttered in a low tone. “Younger Sister Shào…”

Rage!

You stupid pill-purchasing physician, you knew who I was but pretended not to!

I was forced to be the idiot who played along…nnngh…

With an earnest look, he covered my mouth with his hand and murmured, “Don’t make sudden noises and I’ll let you go. Otherwise, if you attract the attention of the guards, I won’t protect you.”

I narrowed my eyes, nodding repeatedly. He smiled, but didn’t release me.
In fact, he got even closer, fully giving me the force of his t

“So obedient…” the rest of his oily words dissolved with a sigh into the air.

My eyes grew wider than ever, and it felt like I was suffocating. All I could see was his handsome-looking face and those eyes curving into a smile. My heartbeats pounded like a drum, as if it was trying to jump out of my throat.

His face drew closer to mine before he pressed his lips against the hand there, leaving a mark. My body stiffened, and I flushed, at a loss for what to do.

This was an alcove along the corridor, and there was no place for me to hide. Thick walls encircled me on both sides with the pond just beyond. The budding lotuses floated on the water, right by our forms…

Their delicate fragrance assailed the nose and hovered in the air about us.
It was a very romantic scene[2].

Only I didn’t feel this way at all. Not to mention, the other person was the wrong guy.

My teeth flashed.

“Alas…you actually bit me.” he hastily withdrew his hand to examine it carefully. Still, he had a smile when he looked at me again. “You should know there’s a lot of women in the world who adore me–Nongyu.”

I held back, my face very red, and took a deep breath.

“Like I care about that! If you get fresh with me again…” I fumbled about before pulling out a packet of powder. “Be careful my poison doesn’t leave you an eternal bachelor[3]!”

He completely ignored the powder to focus on my chest instead, amused. “You hid so much stuff in there, but you’re still kind of flat…that’s rather worrying.”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

The sagely Nongyu I remembered first meeting, was this really the same person…?

The bantering tone hadn’t changed, but he seemed to have grown fonder of teasing others. I really wanted to shut him up, but…

Personal preferences aside, there was something important I didn’t understand.

“How did you guess it was me…did my disguise fail so hard?” I touched my face, uncertain. The layers of the mask were still there, so I shouldn’t have been easily exposed. “Do you want to know? It’s actually very simple.” He smiled lightly, bending down. Those refined eyebrows were long and slender, giving him a relaxed and cheerful expression. “I’m a face-changing expert.”

Face-changing expert? A guy like him…
I was too late to hide the expression of ridicule on my face.

Nongyu took back his unrestrained, frivolous manners, and said seriously, “Come with me.” So saying, he grabbed my hand and pulled me along.

“But this medicine…” I pointed at the package on the ground.

“There’ll be someone to take it away, don’t bother.”

Huh…

He actually rolled his eyes at me, t-t-this…I’m so mad! I could actually throw up.

I don’t know how many turns we made before we reached a house.
Nongyu shut the door behind us as we entered.

“What’s the point of shutting the door up so tightly?”

“Of course…it’s so…” His leisurely voice followed the slow lift of his head, while I stood there in the breeze, puzzled. The corners of his eyes rose, and his face had the smug look of someone used to taking liberties. “We can work together to deceive everyone else.”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

I gave him a blank look, completely ill at ease. Plopping onto a chair, I found a bronze mirror to examine my fake face. There was nothing enticing about this face at all…

Looks like Nongyu was an exceptional case, not even letting my vile old skinbags go. Truthfully speaking, I felt sorry for the old emperor.

He was sick enough to be confined to bed, away from all the beautiful sights of the inner court. Meanwhile this imperial physician could wander about the place as he’d liked. Even if he stirred up a big fuss, he could abort the situation quite easily, leaving no one the wiser.

“What are you whispering about in the corner?” His hand rested against the table as he leaned down, index finger picking at my face. The neatly trimmed nail brushed past my skin as his mouth creased into a smile. “Younger Sister Shào…”

“What are you babbling about, trying to call back the dead?” I beat him off.

“Your poison skills are superior to mine, and your medical skills might reach my level before long but…it looks like your face-changing skills aren’t much after all.”

He was looking down on me.

My rebuttal faded as I saw my reflection in the mirror. I looked back and forth a few times, before falling into silence.

“Yifu never taught me how to change my appearance.”

He smiled, and dug off a piece of skin from my face to take an experimental sniff. “This is the first time I, Nongyu, have seen anyone use poisonous powders to change their looks…Younger Sister Shào, you have some guts.”

“I was raised by Fang Hua. Do you think I fear poisons?”

“That makes sense,” he turned and took out a light green bottle from a side drawer. Pulling out the stopper, he gave a sniff before pouring some of its contents into his palm, eyes laughing. “Come and tilt your face towards me, be good.”

“Haven’t I been facing you the entire time…hmph…”

A fragrant aroma drifted from his palm, and some sort of liquidy, oily plaster was applied to my face. It felt like he was smearing paint over a wall… The strong force he was usually gradually lessened as he asked, “Hn? Comfortable?”

“It’s all right.”

He smiled again.

I caught the hand that wanted to drift down to my neck and collar, and spoke tightly, “You haven’t done the bottom half of my face yet.”

“Excuse my lack of manners,” he lightly searched my face, as if looking for something. Then he made a polite gesturing motion to the side. “There’s water over there to wash off your face. You’ll be recognized sooner or later by the crown prince and your yifu like this.”

“First I get smeared with weird stuff, then I have to wash my face.
What exactly are you playing at?”

“It’s very simple,” He took up his sleeves and spoke in a leisurely tone.
“I’m going to make you another face.”

-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] Noble Consort (贵妃) −guifei, depends on dynasty, but this is one of the highest (if not the highest) level of imperial concubines. Of course, the one on top is the empress. [2] romantic scene (⻛花雪⽉) −feng hua xue yue, or “wind, flowers, snow, moon”, term originally used for certain types of works, and later referring to sentimental writings in general. Think along the lines of…cliché shoujo scenes or similar. [3] eternal bachelor (⽆妻⽆ ⼉) −wuqi wuer, “without a wife, without a son,” I took a bit of creative liberties here, hehe.

Ah…

Not bad, I could agree to that. I nodded and smiled before turning with an exclamation of surprise.

“Where’s the water…”

“The water’s in the copper basin.” “Then where’s the copper basin?”
“Walk forward seven to eight steps. There’s a copper basin on the rack with some cold water inside. The hot water pail and ladle is on the ground…as for a face towel, you can use your sleeves for now.” His eyes were gleaming, but their gaze was gentle and soft, his voice unhurried. “Understand?”

I rolled up my sleeves and stuck a pinkie in my ear. But then he raised a foot and gave me a light kick. “If you know, then why aren’t you hurrying over?”

Nice guy, you sure change moods fast.

I peered into the basin and had a sudden bout of laziness. I didn’t feel like adding any hot water, so I just leaned over and splashed my face, shaking my head a few times. This basically made me clean…but excess water was still trailing down from my hair, so I quickly rubbed it dry with my sleeves.

When I raised my head, I saw Nongyu staring at me blankly.

“What?”

He sucked in his lips and pursed them, as if just regaining his senses. But it seemed he was resisting the urge to smile with great difficulty. “To sink to this level, Younger Sister Shào has already amazed me. Your movements are so violent, and yet you treat it as a small trifle. Such behavior is worthy of acclaim.” He clasped his hands in a bow, and refused to meet my eyes.

How contemptuous. Nothing but bare disdain…
I smacked the table and gave him a glare as I sat in my seat.

“Come and pick one.” His sleeves whisked over the table. I swept over the surface with a careless gaze, but was instantly transfixed.

There was a white jade vessel sitting on the table, within which were suspended various skin masks as thin as cicada wings…the water wafted with the scent of sandalwood as it quivered.

He lifted his gaze to look at me. “Let’s use this one.” So speaking, he deftly lifted out a mask from the very bottom, and pressed it against my face.

“Hey…you, I didn’t even pick yet.”

A mild tone rose from somewhere above me. “These are my masks. You pick what you want, I give what I want…if you pick something I refuse to give, then you couldn’t do anything about it anyways.”

—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Abominable.

This guy was really abominable!

“Don’t move around. Each mask is as precious as gold,” he stuck his finger around my eyebrows and pressed down a few times, slowly sliding it down…after stroking seven or eight places, his eyes crinkled and he gave a cheerful laugh. “It’s done.” I felt an ominous premonition and stole a look at him. Turning away, I furtively touched my face. The surface was pretty slippery, and thin enough that it felt like I was rubbing my own skin. My anxiety slowly calmed down.

He embraced me from behind, hands slowly reaching upwards. “There’s one more thing that we need to change.”

He rested a finger above the front button of my collar. Exactly what did he plan to do…?
—All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

Seeing his face get increasingly closer, my expression turned serious.

From the depths of my sleeves, I grabbed some packets of powder. There was still time to throw them…

His hands clamped around my wrists, preventing me from moving within his embrace.

“Do you want to poison me again?”

“A well-read sage of the Confucian classics would never be as rude as you.”

“I’m only like that with outsiders, but I don’t need to be with you.” He smiled and used a finger to prop up my face. “Moreover…I usually read medical books.”

His hand moved lower, brushing against the top button of my collar with a smile that wasn’t quite a smile.

“What are you doing…”

“Don’t misunderstand, I said there’s one more thing you have to change.” He pressed closer and asked, “Do you know what it is?” I lowered my head, silently looking…

The place where he’d rested his hand was very particular…a little bit lower and he’d be a shameless rogue; a little higher and he’d be considered a tease.

“You’re too artistic with your hand placement. Forgive me for being dull, but I really don’t understand.”

He laughed, lifting his hand to brush a slender finger past my throat and chin. His face drew by my side, the eyelashes drooping as he spoke softly in my ear. “Your voice…”

“Voice?”

“You asked me why I could recognize you even after you changed your looks. Though I’m a face-changing expert who can tell with a glance, those people familiar with you will be able to guess just from listening to you talk.” He turned away, taking a small square box off a rack. From its depth, he took out a round, black pill and held it in his hand. “So…eat this.”

I looked at him sideways.

You think I’d eat it…just because you said so? Who knew if it was poisoned?
“Do you not trust me? Or are you just afraid of my poisons?”

“I, Shao Hua, have made plenty of my own poisons. Like I’d be scared of you trifling imperial physician!”

“So Shào Yu really was a lie you made up to fool me.” He smiled slightly, and said mildy, “…the person vanished without a trace, the waters flow hollowly on. The beautiful spring does not linger for youth, and regrets exist on without ceasing.” His gaze was brilliant as he stared fixedly at me. “Shao Hua is as beautiful as that spring, what a good name[1].” —All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

He really had a way with words.

His tone of speech even resembled those melancholy, cast-aside lovestruck princes. I was on the verge of paying respects to his skills.

Nongyu’s eyes overflowed with a soft and gentle warmth, and he rolled up his sleeves, preparing to speaking again. I hurriedly twisted around to muffle him with one hand, tossing the pill in my mouth with another as I swallowed.

Air rushed through my entire body and up towards my throat. It felt both numb and itchy…as if countless ants were crawling around inside.

Shoot, what kind of pill was this?

I clutched my throat, looking around until I spotted a table. Pouring myself a cup of water, I downed it in one gulp, allowing its coolness to seep down. It was much more comfortable after that.

“What kind of pill is this?! It’s even hard to talk, do you want me to become a mute?” I frowned as I blurted out my grievance.

A slightly clear and melodious voice filled the room… I stood stunned.
“Isn’t this good? Now even the crown prince won’t recognize you.” He rested his hands behind his back, feeling extremely self-satisfied.

Che, Han Zichuan hadn’t recognized me back then either when I stumbled into the palace.

My hands felt around my throat, feeling extremely astonished. I tested my voice a few more times. As before, it had the crystal clear tones of a child. —All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

“Go clean up your things a little bit, you’ll be moving to another wing today.”

“Why?” The place I lived at now wasn’t half-bad.

“Your yifu has been in the palace for a while, but he’s taciturn and never goes out. The court ladies and eunuchs in charge of serving him all live in dread because none of them know what he likes. Each day he doesn’t treat the emperor’s illness is one more day that makes me anxious.” He grasped my hand. “Fang Hua didn’t want you to come, yet here you are. Since things are like this, why don’t you live with him? If you don’t reveal yourself, I won’t expose you either, how about it?”

I gave him an empty look.

His eyes shone with sincerity and a certain eagerness.

“I don’t want to…” I said flatly, wearing an extremely reluctant face.
“But in light of the fact that you saved me…I’ll grudgingly agree.”

His eyes crinkled into a very pleased smile, and he pulled my wrist to lead me outside. The entire way, he dragged me along as my face kept its stiff expression, though I resisted an urge to smile.

Inside, I was thoroughly delighted…

To the Heavens above, I’ll burn some incense for you when I get back.

Finally I can see yifu and even live with him in the same room…if that was the case, didn’t it mean that at night…

Nongyu slowled down, turning around to look at me. “Are you so happy because you’re going to see your yifu soon?”

“No, originally I wanted to enter the palace and fool around…but now you’re making me work for you.” My expression was tragic and sorrowful. He placed a hand comfortingly on my shoulders, patting me a few times.

“I heard the servants say he’s hard to serve, so I’ll have to trouble you for these few days. His monthly allowances are much higher than the imperial physicians’, but I’ll give you some extra to add on later.”

I firmly suppressed the rising joy in my heart, instead exhaling an irritated breath as my gaze clouded over. My face reddened in stubborn silence, while his was filled with apology as he continued to lead me in silence.

Around the length of time it took for half an incense stick to burn, we came before a lacquered door, painted vermillion red.

“Imperial Physician Nong,” Two or three court ladies hurriedly knelt on the ground as he approached.

He nodded and stopped walked.

“Why aren’t you inside doing your jobs?”

The court ladies exchanged glances, as if reluctant to disclose an awkward topic. The door was slightly ajar, and opened with a single push.

I stood behind Nongyu as we entered and saw a figure within the rooms. Pitch-black hair covered his shoulders, and a ray of light illuminated his whole body. Under the serenity of the scene, Fang Hua’s beauty shone in brilliant splendor. He sat by a table, head on his hands, eyes closed as if taking a nap.

At that moment, my heart gave a start.

-o-All reproductions of this work not on volaretranslations are stolen copies.

[1] what a good name – Shao Hua ( 勺 嬅 ) “beautiful spoon” vs. shaohua ( 韶华), “beautiful springtime, glorious youth”. They sound the same, but are written differently with distinct meanings.  

Chapter30

The windows were open with the pear blossoms in bloom, their petals floating in the air. A few had landed on Fang Hua’s shoulder, releasing their sweet fragrance into the room.

“Lord Fang Hua.” Nongyu nudged my shoulder as he called out to him.

He nodded back, somewhat befuddled. Those eyelashes shook as if passing through 1,000 years of time before he opened them. I heard Nongyu exhale. It wasn’t just him; my heart started beating rapidly as well.

His plain white face made the mole beneath his eye extremely distinct and colorful. Though only a few days had passed since I’d seen him, he seemed to have changed slightly…I couldn’t say what it was, but the eyebrows and hair on his temples, along with the quiet, drooping eyes, seemed to make his face a bit more bewitching. He was no less delicate and pretty, but there was a hint of anxiety between his brows. This feeling seemed to hang still for an instant; then it was gone like fading mist…

It seemed that he could disappear at a moment’s notice.

While    I     wasn’t     paying     attention,     he’d     already     resumed his cool, indifferent expression. Two eyes gave a chilly glance at Nongyu, who stared blankly for a while before he recovered to point at the group of trembling people with a smile. “I happened to see these court ladies loitering outside, why not let them serve you indoors? Could it be that they’ve upset Lord Fang?”

“I want to drink water.” “They didn’t give you water?”

“They did,” Before that merciless, level voice could settle down, a frosty sentence followed. “But I don’t like engaging with others.”

So he drove them rather unskillfully outdoors.

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

I could completely understand. Nodding my head, I resisted the urge to smile as I stole a peek. Nongyu’s facial expression was stuck in place, his smile blatantly forced.

“Lord Fang isn’t to blame…it’s because they weren’t clever enough, so I brought you someone who can work today.” He reached behind and grabbed me, pushing me over. Fang Hua didn’t spare me a glance but turned away, lifting the teapot on the table to pour himself a cup of tea. He pinched it between his hands and raised it closer…before his brow furrowed.

He replaced the cup in its original spot, as if disgusted. “You came here…for what reason, exactly?”

Nongyu didn’t seem to understand his dismissal, but walked forward a few steps as if planning to set a chair by his table and make small talk. Before he could take a seat, a young eunuch hurriedly ran inside, his robes covered in sweat and his face exceptionally anxious. He didn’t even have time to pay respects before creeping close to say something…

My ears pricked, but I couldn’t hear clearly.

Nongyu suddenly stood up and clasped his hands towards Fang Hua. “There’s a matter in the court, so I’ll take my leave now.” Afterwards, he glanced over at me with a pensive smile. “Take good care of Lord Fang Hua.”

Nice guy… He’s probably really leaving.

The rooms suddenly became absolutely deserted. Court ladies and eunuchs clustered outside with their heads bowed all properly, yet afraid to come in. Fang Hua sat upright at the table, a face filled with solemnity.

Actually…

It was just an empty front.

His inner thoughts were very simple. He was taciturn and expressed little with his face. But for the servants of the palace, who were used to acting according to the situation and cues…thi

Tsk, tsk, see how many days he can last in the palace.

I plopped my butt to sit down directly across him. Each of the people outside were jolted into stupefaction, but not one made a sound to stop me.

Fang Hua only lifted an eyelid to give me one glance, head on his hands as his fingers fiddled with the wood patterns…then stared at the table until he started blanking out.

See?

He was really easy to bully.

He had no concept that lords and servants couldn’t sit at the same table. Though he appeared to have an elegant, graceful carriage, his heart was in a mess…

I recalled him saying that he wanted to drink some water.

Rolling up my sleeves, I grabbed the teapot, lifting the lid to look inside…and my eyebrows knitted. After pouring a cup, there was only a mouthful left. I stood up and raised my hand towards an eunuch whose face was filled with fear and trepidation. “You, come here.”

Fang Hua looked at me, flabbergasted. Such revolting behavior… I ignored him.
I smiled and rested my arm around the eunuch’s shoulders, stuffing the teapot in his hands as I spoke below my voice. “In the future, prepare two teapots for this house. Leave tea leaves out of one but put them in the other, and make sure that one’s kept scalding hot at all times.”

He was obviously surprised. I gave him a side glance. “Understood?” “Y…y-yes, Little Li will do it right away.”
Fang Hua’s habits were a bit different from ordinary humans, and this went for his habits drinking water as well. One cold, one hot. You had to boil spring water or well water and wait for it to cool before he drank it.

As for the water with tea leaves, it had to be poured while it was scalding hot…even on a hot day, he’d hold it and drink it slowly… As soon as the water turned lukewarm and acceptable for humans, he couldn’t bear it, or touch it even if he was dying.

The people in the palace really did their jobs fast. It took a moment’s effort to send over the tea water. Pouring a cup, I carried it over to him.

His eyelashes shook slightly as he stared at my hands, before moving upwards to rest on my face with a smile. Under the gaze of countless eyes, he actually drank it. The court ladies and eunuchs by the door were all shocked.

Afterwards, when I became more familiar with them, I learned that although Fang Hua had come to the palace for many days, he rarely drank the water handed over by other people.

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

Don’t ask me why…but I think it was probably because the water didn’t meet his standards… “Don’t block my way, all of you get lost..” a delicate, pampered voice drifted over, both tender and crisp. The ‘get lost’ part was especially forceful. A peal of light, quick footsteps came from outdoors, followed by the sound of silver bells. With a shuaa, the people outside all grew fearful and fell to their knees as a light yellow silhouette charged inside, filling the rooms with flowery fragrance.

“Lord Hua, your servant picked some flowers for you again.”

A pair of vivid eyes stared at me from a 13 to 14 year old girl. She was wearing the clothes of a court lady and looked extremely cute. Within the folds of some satiny fabric was wrapped the budding heads and gorgeous blooms of various flowers. She looked at Fang Hua, then at me. “…huh? This is…”

Lady…

That’s what I wanted to ask, too.

Don’t you know a girl can’t just charge into a grown man’s quarters?
Especially…if those were my family’s Fang Hua’s doors.

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

Fang Hua pointed at the girl. “Little Huang[1].” In the end…he pointed at me as well as he spoke to her. “This is someone who’s serving me.”

What a terse introduction to each other. Little Huang…does he think he’s keeping a dog[2]?

Though I was worse off, seeing as I didn’t even have a name.

I knitted my eyebrows and looked at her, my heart full of uncertain thoughts. Fang Hua tended to avoid trouble whenever possible, but he was being very benevolent today by speaking so much.

The hostility from that girl became clearer. Although her expression was resentful, that bright red face was like a tender flower, and she really was a small and beautiful person. I chanced a look and kept my gaze on the vast variety   of   flowers…pear blossoms, Chinese peonies,tree peonies…

This was…?

Fang Hua’s eyes and mine both focused on one point. Sweet-scented oleander.
— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

This girl, was she here to deliver edibles…or poison someone? Although Fang Hua’s skill in dispelling poisons was singlehandedly brilliant, the imperial palace differed from his own place…the flowers here didn’t even bloom according to the seasons, so who knew how many times more poisonous the sweet-scented oleander could be?

Fang Hua was absolutely still. Heart sinking, I squeezed my way through and grabbed an armful from the pile of flowers wrapped up in the satin. I bent down, my eyes crafty as I spoke. “Many thanks to Miss Little Huang…seeing you carry all these, they must be heavy, so allow me.”

Her eyebrows narrowed. “You’re calling me ‘Little Huang’ as well?!”

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

This child didn’t like it when people made mistakes.

I rubbed my nose and quickly back up a few steps. Originally I wanted to shut the door, but I gave an eeee? of surprise as my eyes narrowed. A silhouette covered in purple gauze leisurely arrived, surrounded by a cluster of eunuchs and court ladies.

Abruptly, two hands propped themselves on the doors. I started as an eunuch gave me a look to kneel before rubbing his throat to announce, “The noble consort has arrived.”

Little Huang seemed to have seen her and flustered, moved to hide behind Fang Hua.

Noble consort?

I stared at Fang Hua, who also looked at a loss.

“Well…it’s certainly lively in this room,” said a gentle, demure voice. Three parts as delicate and frail as the willow, seven parts filled with sumptuous luxury and wealth, a very beautiful woman had appeared….though she still looked inferior to Fang Hua.

Her pretty eyes looked about the room and a impressive, imposing voice pressed on, “Xuan’er[3], come out.”

That tiny brat of a child hiding behind Fang Hua dawdled for a while before stepping out and hastily running over to hug the woman’s leg.

“Mother.”

“You’re wearing court ladies’ clothes to run around and play again. I’ll need to punish you when we return,” that woman raised her hand to pinch the tiny face, though she didn’t dare to use much strength. Her face was even smiling. Then she looked at Fang Hua, and the eyes above her smile turned cold. “These few days my child has always been running over here, I really am sorry for the inconvenience.”

Fang Hua’s mouth still stayed as before, and he neither spoke nor answered. There was only a magnificent and peerless smile.

The noble consort’s gaze grew dim and she gave a light wave. Quickly, the eunuch behind her carried over a lunch box and handed it over.

“I specifically instructed the imperial kitchens to make a few pastries and edibles. Kindly accept this small gift of mine, Lord Hua.” She turned to look around a few times before speaking. “I was wondering why the servant girls I sent out to pick flowers couldn’t find any. It seems like they were all sent to you.”

“If the noble consort likes them, she may take them all.”

“How could that be good? I just prefer for my servants to pick fresh flowers as hairpins. Originally, I thought only females would enjoy these things. I never expected Lord Hua to like them as well.” Her hand touched a flower and paused as she spoke, smiling. “I’ve long heard that Lord Hua not only has exceptional medical skills, but handsome looks as well. Though you’ve entered the palace for a few days now, the emperor’s illness hasn’t improved. But your looks really do match your reputation… dazzling men, women, old and young alike. No wonder the crown prince invited you here from a thousand li[4] away.”

This woman’s words were filled with barbs. I gave Fang Hua a rather anxious glance, yet he was sitting upright at the table, leisurely sipping tea with a cool, indifferent smile. Little Huang’s gazed at him with an expression of utmost adoration.

“Help mother pick one of the bigger flowers,” the beautiful woman lightly pinched her cheeks, though the girl was clearly unwilling.

I hurriedly used both hands to respectfully present the most beautifully blooming peony. Her eyes crinkled into a smile as she raised it with her hand and looked into the mirror, inserting it into her hair in an extremely elegant and graceful manner.

She really was very beautiful…

The woman glanced sideways and gave an eunuch a meaningful look. That person immediately moved forward to fold up the satin cloth and carry away all the flowers. She too, raised herself higher to speak a few conventional exchanges of amenities, before valiantly dragging away her resisting child, who turned to look back reluctantly every three steps.

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.] Outside, she was still using her hands to touch her hair, conveniently smoothing her face along the way.

I had a rather devious smile. Go and touch…touch as much as you want…

Fool.

You dared to find faults with yifu in front of me? I’ll make you taste suffering. By chance, my hands had been itching to do something, so I put some poisoned powder into the flowers, although it wasn’t much…enough to have your face break out in a rash and confine you to bed from ten days to half a month.

The people and happenings within the imperial court were even more complicated than I imagined…

I closed the door and sucked in a breath. How did Fang Hua endure these few days? I followed his shadow to look at him, my thoughts in another world. He was in the middle of turning around, back to me and head lowered as he busied himself with something.

I stuck my neck over.

He spread open a small fold of ragged cloth. As if holding the most precious treasure, he raised the pastries gifted by the noble consort and gave it a sniff, selecting a few to put into the snow-white material. Then he folded it up and placed it within his robes.

This material looked very familiar… It was a piece of cloth from the inner robes he often wore at home.

“Sire, what exactly are you doing?” I was curious. Could it be that he’d gotten sick of eating flowers…and was now eating pastries? Even so, a change like that wasn’t worth hiding in his clothing.

“I’m going to save it for Shao’er,” he muttered to himself. “She’s never eaten anything this good…” His tone was faint, but extremely soft and tender, as if recounting something very ordinary. But my heart suddenly trembled as I came to a realization.

If he kept it in his robes like this, wouldn’t they spoil by the time he left the palace?

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

Around midday, I began to get drowsy, and my eyelids drooped ferociously. Court ladies had no time to break at noon. While in the imperial physicians’ courtyard, I had occasional small breaks, but Fang Hua had very few eunuchs and court ladies, so even one missing person was very conspicuous. Thus, I had to make do in spite of the adversity.

The crown prince arrived around lunchtime and had stayed until now with no intention of leaving…

I fished out the red lotus from my robes and sniffed it to invigorate myself, before my hand reached out to block Little Li and take the tea from his hands. I pushed open the door to the room, lowered my head, and walked forward.

Han Zichuan seemed to be discussing something with Fang Hua, and the atmosphere seemed somewhat strange…

The crown prince was holding a work of calligraphy between his fingers… Beside Fang Hua’s elbow sprawled book after book of poetry. I gave it a glance but kept silent, quietly serving the tea.

It wasn’t strange to see Fang Hua reading medical texts…but when did he pick up poetry? That was a strange anecdote.

“Fang Hua’s skills in the qin and chess can be recognized as the best, but I didn’t foresee that your calligraphy and painting skills would leave me with no hope of catching up. Why…” Han Zichuan tilted his head, finger sliding past the pages as his smiling eyes patiently swept over Fang Hua. He spoke in a low voice. “…does Shao’er not know anything?”

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

Talking about me behind my back… How disgraceful.
“Shao’er’s innate talents are excellent, but her personality is indolent and careless,” Fang Hua sipped a mouthful of tea. “If she wants to learn, I’ll teach her. If she doesn’t, she can do as she pleases. A person only has one life. To live a day happily is a worthy day.”

My eyes curved into a smile, though I could only listen from a corner without doing anything.

Fang Hua raised his head to ask a question. “You’ve come here to rest for ages. Is there anything else?”

Han Zichuan inclined slightly and spoke in an easy tone, “I did come for a purpose, but this time I forgot.” He lowered his head and scooped up his sleeves, using the fabric as bugger to raise his tea and blow on it furiously.

He and I acted the same way…

After staying with Fang Hua for so long, we understood his habits. Every time we had tea with him we had to save ourselves by blowing until the water was lukewarm before we dared to drink it.

He lifted an eye towards Fang Hua as if recalling something, and sighed. “That’s right. This morning, the imperial physicians came with news that father’s illness has gotten worse. This time, you really have to go help take a look.”

— [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.] His own father was close to dying from sickness, yet he still felt carefree enough for idle chatter…how impressive.

Fang Hua didn’t speak, but muttered to himself. From my perspective, he would refuse this time. Yet his eyebrows furrowed and he raised his head, fingers knocking against the table. “It’s not advisable to delay. Show me the way.”

Then he rose and slowly spoke to me. “Take the acupuncture needles in the pouch on the rack, you’ll be coming with me.”

Me?

Why me…

Wait, I can see the emperor now.

-o- [Original and most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]

[1] Little Huang (⼩⻩) −xiao huang, or “Little Yellow.” Huang is most likely a surname.

[2] keeping a dog (当养狗么) −dang yang gou mo, another way to say ‘does he think he’s keeping pets’. Little Huang is a type of nickname you’d find on dogs…

[3] Xuan’er (旋⼉) −diminutive form for Xuan (probably a given name). The literal definition is a “circle”, or “to revolve/spin, come back.”

[4] a thousand li away (千⾥迢迢) −qianli tiaotiao, which could mean a thousand li away or stand in as an idiom for any far away distance.
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