Between Life And Death (Part Two)
On Feng Qi Slope, the imperial guards were constantly busy with the task in hand, one soldier was running around as he gave out commands, besides him, another soldier suddenly speaks up in interception: “Vice-Captain, is it possible to give the soldiers a rest, it has already been an entire day and night, our fellow brothers are all tired.”
The soldier addressed as Vice-Captain shows a face of reluctance, he could not help but to look towards the left where the high slope was, without even making a move, he turns his head to answer: “No resting. Have you not seen Prime Minister Lou’s face, do none of you want to live anymore?” Thinking back to how reporting back to the Prime Minister yesterday has resulted in this, he secretly lets out a sigh. Ever since he realised that the one who fell down the valley was Madam Lou, Prime Minister Lou immediately entered a state of icy wrath, and as time goes on, he is looking worse and worse.
The reporting soldier also feels an infinite amount of mixed feelings, quietly speaking of his complaints: “This huge fire at Feng Qi Slope has been fuelled for longer than a day before it was finally extinguished, even the skies have already darkened now, there’s just no way for us to go down in search for people.”
Hearing this, the vice-captain also lets out a sigh, saying: “There’s no other choice, if we really can’t find the person, we can only be afraid that……” The following words just couldn’t be spoken out loud, just thinking of it would give one the chills.
The soldier was helpless, glancing over towards the area the prime minister stands, an inexplicable chill running up his spine, he suddenly turns his head back and says: “Oh yeah, what do we do about that youth?” His voice low, revealing a hint of weariness.
The vice-captain raises his brows, the thought of the youth who rushed here by horse, during late noon yesterday, brought upon a headache. Ever since the prime minister notified his residence of the matter regarding Madam Lou’s fall down the mountain valley, at noon, a young man came rushing in by horse, just when he had dismounted from the horse, the horse because of being overworked, dropped dead, thinking back to that scene, he can still vividly picture it in front of him.
A youth like that, anyone who sees him would not be able to forget him, they say he is the prime minister’s star pupil, a man of talent, what is even more rare is his characteristic quality, like that of pure water, he truly is a delicately handsome young man ah! Being a soldier for so many years, only in these past two days did he manage to see the most outstanding characters. Yesterday, he was even wondering, could it be that all the outstanding characters have all gathered within the Lou Estate?
Someone like that approachable yet handsome youth, no one would dislike right? Once he had arrived, he was extremely anxious, as though there was some kind of painful suffering haunting him, hence him insisting on heading to the bottom of the valley. Clearly a frail scholar, who would dare to let him take such dangerous risk, not to mention that Feng Qi Slope yesterday was still engulfed in flames, and then the most bizarre thing happened, that youth appears to have transformed into stone as he stands on the mountain slope all night, eating nothing, drinking nothing, saying nothing, seeing him again this morning, he looks like a completely different person from yesterday.
Seeing him yesterday, he was a youth with incomparable purity, such handsomeness had even slightly crossed the boundaries of gender, but the him today, with hair that’s long been blown into a mess by the wind, his face a little haggard, the crystal clear eyes of yesterday were now filled with deep and heavy feelings, with an added touch of ice-like chilliness. Has the youth turned into a man overnight? Can one night really change someone this much?
“Vice-Captain, that youth is truly frightening, he was not like this yesterday.” A solider speaks up in helplessness, “He’s already not eaten anything for an entire day and night, should we send something over to him?”
The vice-captain nods his head, then again, shakes it, saying: “Leave it to me.” He takes hold of the bamboo basket from the soldier’s hand, and walks towards the slope edge on the right, he had yet to reach the youth, when the youth turns his head to him, asking: “Can we head down the valley yet?” Just a day before, he still had a clear and crisp voice, today, it already changed into a tone of frost-like cold.
Shaking his head, the vice-captain was just about hand over the food, but sees the youth turn away without a single glance at it, just continuing to stare down the valley, letting out an exasperated sigh inside, the vice-captain observes the youth, originally wanting to make a move, when he suddenly thought that any persuasion is of no use right now, and so he keeps his mouth shut.
The youth’s hair is swept up by the mountain-side wind, one half of his face has stiffened up overnight, his eyes because of his fixed determination appears indomitable, deep and unfathomable, his finely chiselled facial features lost its water-like clearness and purity, but has instead gained an indescribable touch of emotionlessness and stubbornness, one overnight change has revealed a different type of sinister handsomeness to him, making others unable to look away.
This is Feng Qi Slope, standing here, one can have the entire mountain valley reflected in their eyes, the skies have long darkened, only a vast scene of black can be seen, like looking down a bottomless black hole, unable to see anything, he stands still, for a long long time, exactly how long has it been?
The winds were very strong, like bursts of roaring by the ear, all other sound can no longer be heard. She is down there, at the bottom of the valley, did anything happen to her? Once he thinks of such things, his heart would suffer great pain, as though he’s lost a piece of it, a truly unforgettable pain, paining him to such extent, he can no longer think, only able to stand aside, helpless as he absently stares down the deep valley……
That day, he first met her, it was also a dark night like this……
The performance troupe was heading into the imperial palace to deliver an opera performance, the troupe leader was extremely excited, saying how Kun Yuan Performance Troupe will be the number one troupe from hereon, everyone within the troupe were exceptionally happy, only him, only he was unable to integrate into the happiness.
He was born in a declining scholarly family, living in poverty since young, perhaps it is because of the influence of his father, he has no desires nor demands by nature, and everyone praises his generous and pure temperament, but who would have thought that he is also as deep as water inside, clear and transparent, selfless, anyone can be reflected on the water surface, but once the person leaves, their traces will also disappear, all along, he has been searching, what is it he himself wants? Exactly who will be able to leave a lasting impression in his heart?
The imperial banquet has started, he hides away in a far off location, finding a peaceful place to read his book, who would have thought, he would actually witness the most taboo scene within the palace grounds, he waits for them to leave, when he had just thought the trouble have left afar, he encounters her. Within the darkness, he could not see her face, it was only her clear, indifferent, yet carefree voice that he had taken a little liking to.
Are you willing to leave the performance troupe and come with me?
She has spoken of the matter he had wanted to do most, at that time, he had long grew weary of the environment within the performance troupe, and have already decided to apply for the imperial examinations, perhaps being a government official will be extremely interesting, that is what he thought at that time.
His future suddenly turned bright, yet his mind still remains unperturbed, he was not exactly overjoyed, only naively accepting, a change of environment, could perhaps help him find something precious, he has always believed in this.
The woman who changed his fate is called Gui Wan, everyone says she is a great beauty, at the very beginning, he did not notice this, he had only really liked listening to her voice, so clear, so light, carrying irresistible grace that moves the hearts of others, having grown accustomed to hearing it, he actually longs to hear it again, to be able to hear this kind of voice every day, is perhaps a delightful thing, when did it begin, her voice has hooked onto his heart.
Only when thinking back to the scene of her in the plum forest, does he truly understand the meaning of beauty, the spring air splendid, her laugh like the spring breeze, vague joy moving the hearts of others; summer woods lush green, she is quiet like rainstone, elegant and graceful; autumn leaves quietly worries, she is lonely like the night moon, luminous and intoxicating; winter snow looking bleak, she is proud like plum blossoms, delightfully shining.
That night, he wanders amongst the plum forest again…….
Since when, was the lingering fragrance of plum wine in his nose, difficult to forget?
Since when, was his brush strokes of feelings, his reciting of Spring Thoughts, difficult to give up?
Since when, was the constant rippling of his heart like a water mirror, difficult to calm down?
He originally had no desires nor demands, but after meeting her, he had actually formed some sort of sentimental attachment, such that he himself finds difficult to understand. She often asked, if he does not have confidence in himself, how is he to enter officialdom? At the bottom of his heart, he seems to have a vague answer that he is almost certain with, yet not just once, not just twice, but three times, he has repeatedly ignored it. Exactly what is it? He does not understand, nor does he really want to understand.
The heavens are punishing him now, him letting her go back then, led to the news of her falling down the valley, dead or alive unknown. The moment he heard the news, he was pretty much already dead, his heart pained to the point that it no longer beats, and only then did he come to realise, his mirror-like heart that is as clear as water, could actually feel pain……
Never wanting to experience that heart-breaking pain again……he silently stares down towards the bottom of the valley, waiting, as time goes on, his heart becomes increasingly determined. Nineteen years, and this is the first time he felt like this, he must be growing increasingly greedy, originally only wanting to hear her voice, gradually wanting to admire her beauty, and later wanting to be the one by her side……how much he wants to have her……
He wants to laugh, wants to let out a big hearty laugh, he has found his own thing to hold onto, his precious, such bright and clean heart is no longer empty from hereon; he also wants to cry, wants to pour out his heart in tears, turns out he did not know, love is such a sour taste, such unspeakable anguish……
“We’ve found her, we’ve found Madam Lou……” The sound of voices suddenly travels into his ear, awakening him from his chaotic mind-set of such crazy desires, his feet uncontrollably heads towards the voices, his long been numbed legs, gradually speeds up with every step, escalating into a jog, within the mingling of voices, he can hear the sound of his own heartbeat, strong, steady, his heart is beating again, he can feel his own heart beat again……
He has found it, found something he wants to treasure……
What he wants is……
“We’ve found her, we’ve found Madam Lou……” Soldiers hurriedly rushes uphill from the valley, shouting at the top of their lungs, voices of joy instantaneously spreading throughout the whole of Feng Qi Slope.
Hearing this, Lou Che’s face finally loosens up, first overjoyed, then immediately worried, with another change, showing a slight sense of outrage……his expression goes through three changes at once, his emotions unstable, without waiting for all the other soldiers to become aware, he had already sprinted out in flying style, directly heading towards the edge of the valley cliff.
The skies has only just dimly lit up, a commotion rises at the edge of the valley, having found Madam Lou, all the soldiers present could feel sincere happiness flowing out from within, they have not slept for two days, finally, they can get some rest……seeing Prime Minister Lou disorderly rush over, everyone knew to make way for him.
The one who had just been rescued from below, sits at the edge of the valley cliff, and for the first time, he sees Gui Wan appear in such a sorry state, her clothes in a somewhat worn-out mess, her complexion pale, his heart throbs in pain, as though needles were pricking him all over his body. His face appears gloomy, originally planning to give her a round of merciless scolding, but seeing the state she is currently in, the pent up fury filling his chest could only come out in form of a long sigh, lowering his body to gather her in his arms, pulling her into his embrace, he gently asks: “Are you hurt?”
This one phrase, with such simplicity, was actually overflowing with incredible warmth. Not knowing why, it just sounds like water in general, just one drip, would drip into the depths of Gui Wan’s heart, spreading all over her, with a face of complexity, heart wringing in pain, she had yet to react when she sees Lou Che painfully, dearly, reaching out to gently wipe her face, and only then did she realise, the tears were already spilling out from her eyes.
One drop, two drops……the tears continues to fall, even she does not know why she is crying, is this the fear of standing between life and death? Is it the powerlessness, the helplessness of sorrows? Or is it……
Seeing her silent tears, another round of throbbing shakes his heart, he reaches up to wipe her tears, wanting to help her wipe away her sorrows and fear, but when his hand reached out, he could feel the pain and burning sensation on his hand, those tears, were really heavy……
Lightly holding her, not caring about the surprised eyes surrounding him, Lou Che could feel a burst of rattling in his heart. Just about to lift her up and turn around, he suddenly notices that by the valley cliff, one soldier is carrying another person on his back, could that be the man that fell down the valley with Gui Wan? Watching as he gets rescued, he glances over, a flash of faint silver greets the eyes, his injured arm appears to be tied up with Gui Wan’s hair ribbon, gazing for a long while, he catches a glimpse of the man’s face, and freezes on the spot, is that not Lin Rui En?
Meeting Lin Rui En’s eyes, holding a fair amount of indifference, this person stands on the same power level as he, unfortunately he is often outside, and the two people have never socialised with one another, his thoughts makes a turn, a little shocked as to why he and Gui Wan would be together. Unfortunately this is not the time to pursue the matter, Lou Che calmly speaks: “General Lin, is your injury serious?”
A face like frost shows no signs of change, only responding with a few light nods, “It’s nothing.” Unconsciously, his eyes wanders over to the slender figure, seeing her turn her head upon hearing their voices, her face actually overflowing with tears, he immediately freezes, and his expression falters.
“General Lin,” Gui Wan gently breaks away from Lou Che’s embrace, feeling a little embarassed by her tears just now, she courteously smiles towards Lin Rui En as she speaks: “Thank you for your life-saving grace.”
He unknowingly nods again, shocked by her tears, he could not possibly look away.
“General Lin.” Lou Che’s cold voice interrupts his gaze, Lin Rui En looks into his motionless eyes.
Lou Che pauses for a moment before finally opening his mouth, more or less unwilling, but is still grateful no matter what: “General Lin, you have saved my wife, and for that I am most grateful. From henceforth……if there is anything you need help in, just speak up, I owe you one.”
Lin Rui En does not answer, and stands there, expressionless, as though those words has nothing to do with him whatsoever, a group of physicians who have long been on standby, rushes up at this moment, one after the other, surrounding Lin Rui En, inspecting his injury, treating his wound.
Towards his lack of response, Lou Che did not get annoyed, Lin Rui En is known for his indifference, he himself has already made a promise, and so doesn’t care whether he accepts it or not. Feeling the cool breeze blowing in over the valley, he hurried pulls Gui Wan in front of him, she had fallen down the valley, and now that it is early morning, the weather is cold, he is afraid that her body will feel unwell, wrapping his arm around her, he turns around to head back to camp.
Only when they turned around, did they realise a young man was standing behind them, seeing him, Lou Che and Gui Wan were equally stunned.
Since Gui Wan has been saved from the valley, she has remained a blank state, completely absentminded, particularly because she had just cried her eyes out, it feels as though she had cried away many things, her heart feeling empty, and her movements stiff like that of a wooden puppet, having hovered over the boundaries of life and death, it feels as though she has been cut off from the outside world for an entire generation, the moment she turned her head to see the youth, she was immediately startled awake, could it be that an entire generation has really passed by?
How did the youth go through such a huge change? Coldly standing amongst the wind, the wind lifts his messy hair, an entanglement of silk threads, the delicately pretty face has actually become somewhat stiff, his expression desolate, with an indefinable depression, his clear eyes appears very deep in this moment, seemingly bottomless at glance, his face has long lost its former water-like smile, as he stands there with no expression whatsoever, his entire being, reveals an overflowing quality of determination.
Surprised by his sudden change, Gui Wan dumbly asks: “Xiu Wen……what’s happened to you?”
Upon being called by that light and clear voice, Guan Xiu Wen feels a burst of joy well up from within, he has already stood there for so long, watching her tears fall, her blank state, her absentmindedness, he got the full view of it, but she did not notice him, he waits, finally waited till she gently calls out to him.
Within a flash, a voice like that of breaking ice seems to have been heard, Gui Wan widens her eyes, watching that youth reveal that approachable smile of his, like that of clear water, the fierceness from before appears to have been an illusion, the youth is still that same youth, he has not changed, sighing in relief, Gui Wan’s mind was put at ease, the Guan Xiu Wen just now sure gives people quite the scare.
The youth joyfully laughs, laughing from deep inside his heart, taking a step forward, he gently asks: “Are you okay? Not hurt?” Waiting till Gui Wan specifically shakes her head twice, his heart settles down, he says nothing and just faintly smiles as he gazes at Gui Wan with some sort of complex implications.
The one who was truly shocked, is Lou Che. The moment he saw this youth, he felt a certain kind of odd sensation. This youth’s state of mind has gone through a huge transformation, only then could he have become so eerily strange, so terrifying. His body carries blade-like fierceness, his eyes holding an additional sharp and focused quality, he notices that when looking at Gui Wan, his eyes reflects a sense of dreaminess in them, excessively deep, an unpleasant sensation washes over him, his heart, holds an additional trace of agitation, and he speaks up: “Guan Xiu Wen, you should be tired too, go take a rest.” Having said that, he ditches everyone else and walks Gui Wan back to camp, at the same time, ordering a physician to enter the tent to treat Gui Wan.
Seeing that they have far left, Guan Xiu Wen’s smile that was still ever so clear just now, suddenly drops, standing in the wind, coldly, silently, watching that lingering figure, his heart filled with mixed feelings, such that cannot be even more deeply felt than just now, he needs power, needs wealth, need position, all of sudden, he is filled with an infinite amount of wants.
He wants to have power that can compete with Lou Che……to be able to get close to him……
On top of Feng Qi Slope, there is yet another hectic scene. The soldiers were taking care of several trivial situations, the physicians endlessly walking in and out of the tents, countless soldiers rests above the valley, and one youth stands amongst the wind, undisturbed and lonely……
The skies were beginning to brighten up, unfortunately no one raised their heads, no one realised, the skies had already long been raging on, like a storm……
“Madam’s qi and blood have weakened, and has also received a fright,” The physician looks at the powerful yet young prime minister before him, feeling a little aimless and panicky, having been a physician in the palace for so many years, he has never seen him make such an obvious show of emotions before, in a humble tone, he says, “Madam’s health condition is nothing serious, just need to spend a good amount of time to recuperate, and all shall be fine.”
His wrinkled brows loosens up, Lou Che lightly nods his head, “Go prepare the prescription.” He makes a sudden turn, lifting the tent’s curtain, and walks in.
The inside of the tent was filled with complete silence, with not even the slightest noise, nerve-soothing aroma wafts into his nose as he takes serious steps to the table side, lifting the lid of the censer, and stubbing out the incense inside. Lou Che turns around, his eyes steadily settling on the bed in the middle of the tent, a layer of sheep wool blanket is spread across the bed, and in that moment, the image of the slim figure, sinking into deep sleep, lying there with her black hair sprawled across the snow-white blanket, carries the appearance of a slightly pale beauty in a morbid state.
He walks up to the bedside and lightly sits down, gently pulling up the wool blanket, pulling it up to Gui Wan’s neck, tightly covering her up, suddenly, the blanket in hand makes a move, his eyes looks up, just happening to meet eyes with Gui Wan’s flickering ones. Slowly opening her eyes, those translucent black pupils like that of stars, appears deep.
“Lord Husband……” Gui Wan softly calls out, her mind still in a daze.
Lou Che looks at Gui Wan, but does not answer, his face showing no expression, seeing that she wants to sit up, he takes a pillow, and cushions it against her back.
Seeing his lack of expression, Gui Wan comes to a realisation, asking: “Lord Husband, are you mad at me?” Having just sat up straight, her head felt as though it was spinning, and she leans back against the embroidered pillow.
A mind filled with unspeakable complications, Lou Che displays a face of a slightly cold front, upon noticing Gui Wan’s physical discomfort, his heart felt inexplicable distress, and he could no longer hold back a light scolding: “Do you not want your life? Why must you have come here?” So close, and she would have passed away at the bottom of the valley.
Gui Wan meekly smiles, “I wanted to come in prevention, but only when I got here, did I realise how useless I am.” Such faint voice carries such heavy feelings of lamentation and grief.
To hear such sorrowful words, was not something Lou Che had expected, the originally harsh words he wanted to say, could no longer bear to leave his mouth, seeing this woman, whom he has been protecting and doting on in every possible way, to actually do something so dangerous, has made him experience more than enough worries in his lifetime. He wants to reprimand her, but in a mood where he cannot bear to do so, he could only let out a light sigh, helplessly asking her: “Gui Wan, why do you care for the Empress’ matter this much?”
Gui Wan smiles after thinking for a long while, at the moment when Lou Che had thought she would not answer him, she leisurely speaks up: “Then why does Lord Husband care for the Empress’ matter this much?”
Lou Che was speechless, getting the feeling that he should not say it, but seeing Gui Wan’s slightly pale complexion, he says: “It is not that I am deliberately opposing the Empress, everything that happened today were the results of her own doings.” After saying such heavy words, his tone softens down again, “Gui Wan, you do not need to concern yourself with this matter any further, I will take care of it.” His hand reaches up to run through her long locks, and then helps her pull up the blanket, afraid that the chilliness on Feng Qi Slope would make her ill on top of her injury.
“Cannot not care……” In Lou Che’s rather surprised eyes, Gui Wan softly speaks up.
Lou Che lifts his brows, his heart receiving an endless amount of shock, not waiting for him to speak, Gui Wan continues: “Lord Husband, can you listen to a story of mine?”
Knowing that, for her to tell a story at this precise moment, it must be of utmost importance, Lou Che says nothing, and silently waits.
Gui Wan’s eyes looks away, her attention focused on the censer on the table, as she slowly speaks: “My mother, was a famous beauty twenty years ago, free and easy-going by nature, and also rather bold and vigorous……”
Lou Che was slightly startled, remembering that at the time they got married, Gui Wan’s father had just resigned from his government position, leaving with clean hands (uncorrupted), without even attending his daughter’s wedding. As for her mother, he has only heard that she passed away a few years ago. Not understanding why she would choose to speak of her personal life at this precise moment, he wonders, could it be that there’s a certain revelation within this? Attentively watching her reveal an appearance of hazily drifting away, he carefully listens on.
“When mother was young, she once loved a failed scholar (fail as in failed in the imperial examinations). Not caring for her family’s opposition, she married him, and even gave birth to a daughter. However, the two of them did not live a happy life together, and mother later left that man, marrying my father.” A few simple sentences, outlined the life of one woman, yet deep inside it leaves only a bleak taste. Hearing up to this point, Lou Che’s brows slowly knits together, somewhat able to guess the implications behind this story.
Gui Wan takes a little pause, flashing a wry smile as she speaks again: “At home, I have never seen mother be truly happy before, she would always be filled with worries, rarely cracking a smile. She really doted on me, could be said to be excessively favoured, but towards older brother, she would not even look at him. Contrarily, father liked older brother, disliked me……mother was in a very poor physical condition, when I was fourteen years old, she had already fallen gravely ill. Although father went looking everywhere in seek of medical attention, she was still beyond curable. Before mother died, she really wanted to see the forsaken daughter she had left for over a decade. She told me, she has given her doting love for that daughter to me in double, hoping that I’d be able to give these feelings to that un-fateful older sister in future.” Speaking up to here, Gui Wan pauses for a long while, seeming to no longer plan on speaking any further.
Lou Che freezes, the answer seems to have already came out, he asks in confirmation: “You’re older sister……”
Gui Wan turns her head, steadily looking at Lou Che, and softly says: “Have you not already guessed it? The Empress is the person I need to return the love to.” Within such joyously carefree eyes, there holds assertiveness.
A moment of silence falls upon the inside of the tent, Lou Che did not know how to respond, and could only look at Gui Wan, her face exposing an expression of thoughtfulness.
Gui Wan flashes a soft smile, her hand reaches up to gather her hair, asking in a seemingly relaxed manner: “Lord Husband……what to do?”
Lou Che looks at her in slight puzzlement, an ominous feeling washes over him, causing him to feel a little troubled, and in this moment, he could not utter a single word.
“What are we to do……?” Gui Wan laughingly says, some sort of mournful feeling wells up inside of her, “I need to protect the Empress, you need to protect Consort Ying, perhaps our stances will become antagonistic……”
“It wouldn’t.” A decisive judgement cuts off her speculations, Lou Che authoritatively says, “This is originally not a problem between us.” His heart is troubled, bursting with troubles. Never has he ever thought, he would hear the word “antagonistic” come out from her mouth, making him feel as though his heart suddenly sank.
“Gui Wan, the one opposing the Empress is not me, and is in fact, the one who is named monarch of the country, his majesty the Emperor, you got that?” Lou Che explains, with emotions of indefinable panic mingled into his words.
Gui Wan lets out a little laugh, showing her state of loss, she quietly says: “Without Consort Ying, would his majesty do this?”
Lou Che says nothing, the answer to this question is too obvious, giving him no room to turn the situation around.
Time passes by in minutes and seconds, yet inside this tent, there seems to be the feeling of frozen time, one could faintly feel a kind of oppressive air intensely pass off.
“Gui Wan……” Lou Che’s lips part, only to lightly call out her name, his voice gentle but low.
Hearing this, Gui Wan could not help but to gently quiver, feeling a burst of severity, yet her face continues to carry a smile, “Lord Husband has once promised me, you would satisfy everything I want……I have always believed this. But, what if it’s an interest that affects Consort Ying, would Lord Husband continue to stand by my side?”
The dreariness will soon suffocate him, the air so heavy, it can seemingly crush people. Lou Che does not speak, his face sombre, his thoughts undecipherable. Gui Wan lightly sighs, feeling tremendously tired, paining her head, paining her feelings, also, paining her heart……suddenly her entire body digs out from the wool blanket, she extends her hands, and in Lou Che’s moment of surprise, she has hooked onto Lou Che’s neck. With unlimited amount of charm and gentleness, she leans her head onto Lou Che’s shoulder, three thousand black hair like silk threads, scatters down Lou Che’s chest, thread after thread, strand after strand, “Husband……”
Frozen on the spot, he had almost forgotten to breath. Gui Wan never takes the initiative to get close to another, but in this moment, a faint fragrance rushes up his nose, lingering on his body, his pounding heart bursts, and his hand unconsciously strokes the black silk-like hair. He was surprised that he actually could not calm his heartbeat, wanting to greedily enjoy this charming moment. Gui Wan’s intoxicating voice gently rings through his ear: “Thinking that one day, if we were to take antagonistic stand against one another, how emotionally and spiritually broken I will be ah……” Her voice was sweet, hooking onto his heart, yet it was impossible to conceal her helpless lamenting.
Lou Che could feel his neck area get a little humid, a little warm, droplets of water rolls into his collar. Such heat, seeming as though it will burn him, a strange and bitter feeling spreads out, leaving his heart to restlessly sink down……
Gui Wan withdraws her hands, leaning backwards, hence instantaneously leaving Lou Che’s embrace as she leans against the embroidered pillow, facing Lou Che rather absentmindedly.
The fragrance suddenly disappears, the warmth no longer there, in a moment of shock, he wanted to reach out to grab, but was only able to hold onto a few strands of hair. Lou Che looks at Gui Wan, startled, but all he saw were her deep eyes like stars, holding hidden tears, he sees himself, but her focus was set elsewhere. Her lips like that of half a plum blossom, carrying a hint of a smile that cannot be seen, beautiful yet greatly desolate.
His heart feels empty, slightly aching, he extends his hands, grabbing onto the person in front of him, and strongly pulls her into his arms, “Gui Wan……we will not turn against one another.”
Sensing that the person in his arms uneasily wants to retreat, he hooks onto her waist, holding her even tighter, his heart was in chaos, and he mutters: “Gui Wan……what am I to do with you?”
What am I to do with you?
In heaven’s recording of the second year in spring, the case of “Hu Guo Temple” has reached its end. The annihilation of three hundred people in the rebel party, has been identified, this matter has very extensive implications, the Elder Statesman was also said to be involved. The Emperor was furious, many officials who were under the Elder Statesman’s Estate were demoted. Originally thought that the Empress would be deposed, but unexpectedly, a group of senior officials simultaneously stepped forward in plea, deeply expressing the Empress’ innocence, and so the Empress’ title was saved, the back palace has also restored its peace.
In a blink of an eye, it was already late spring, and the national imperial examinations has begun. The “Hu Guo Temple” matter did not affect the examination, everything went along as planned.
The common people of the Capital were particularly excited this year, the only reason being, the First Ranked Scholar of today is extraordinarily handsome, young and talented, having quite a similar bearing to that of Prime Minister Lou back then, they say that he is the student of none other than Prime Minister Lou himself, all of a sudden, the imperial court and the entire Capital was bustling, conversation topics all turning to this.
This year, topping the list of the imperial examination is the one named, Guan Xiu Wen, at this time, no one knew, the arrival of this youth, will bring upon trials and hardships to the entire city.
 Unforgettable pain – kè gǔ míng xīn / 刻骨铭心 – which literally translates to, engraved on the bones, imprinted on the heart, it is used to describe the pain in this context, but the keyword is unforgettable, the phrase refers to something that has been engraved in your heart and soul, thus making it impossible to forget. Generally speaking, it is a phrase used to express eternal gratitude.
 The actual phrase that was used here was liang xiù qīng fēng /两袖清风 which literally translates to both sleeves swaying with every gentle breeze, emphasising the emptiness of these sleeves – which you should know were also used as pockets back then – and although the phrase can be used to refer to poor people, it is also a phrase used to describe an honest official who is free from corruption and bribery.
 When speaking of trials and hardships, Chinese people usual refers to this as wind and rain or fēng yǔ / 风雨. A phrase that’s most often used for this, would only require the doubling up of both characters – us Chinese and our love for using four character phrases haha – fēng fēng yǔ yǔ / 风风雨雨
When Guan Xiu Wen was first introduced to the story, I purposely refrained from talking about him, just in case I accidentally leak any spoilers 😛 and because I want you guys to really feel the mix of feelings you get from his unexpected change. I really love how the author has written this part, his transformation from the innocent youth that Gui Wan happened upon, to the sinister (borderline psychotic) man vying for Gui Wan’s heart(?) Note the question mark there ’cause I’m actually questioning whether he even cares to try winning Gui Wan’s heart, he seems to have gotten to the point of obsession with her, that he is blinded by his greed of wanting her, forget winning her heart, he just wants to obtain her, to do so, he desires power and will do whatever it means to gain it in order to compete with Lou Che. His transformation here happens so unexpectedly, it happens so fast but not at all rushed, the author did so well in expressing the build up of his thoughts and feelings leading up to his final resolution, and such a quick change in him actually backs up this new sense of danger he carries. He’s definitely one to be wary of now, but then I can’t help but to sympathise with the way he became this way too, for someone to feel so empty in the heart to finally find something that he wants, but then the realisation of all this hits him so suddenly that he doesn’t even know how to control his desires and so it instantly balloons into something so huge, maybe it can be controlled under careful guidance, he’s practically like a newborn baby in this aspect of gaining a new feeling (of having desires), but without the right nurturing it definitely wouldn’t turn out well, and I can say for sure that officialdom is not the right environment for nurturing something as dangerous as desires…anyhow, Guan Xiu Wen just gives me so much mixed feelings right here, and it will definitely stir towards the negative side soon.
I know most of you guys are on General Lin’s side and as much as I love him too, I cannot deny that Lou Che is most suitable for Gui Wan and is also the only person that Gui Wan’s heart is willing to open up to whether she wants to or not. Although she is quite wary of his stance in a political sense, I believe that she has already grown to trust him as the Lord Husband who has sincerely been doting on her, caring for her. Gui Wan has grown so used to suppressing her emotions, never allowing others to see her in a weak state, she was naturally able to leisurely smile in front of General Lin despite her inner worries and fears, but the very moment Lou Che comes into the picture, those tears that she herself didn’t even realise she was holding back, instantly breaks out, thus leaving our poor general in such a dumbfounded state. I think that this incident at Feng Qi Slope definitely marks the turning point in their relationship, Gui Wan expresses sincere pain at the thought of having to turn against Lou Che if their political stance calls for it (note how she actually calls him Husband for the first time here, which is a more genuine addressment whilst Lord Husband expresses a leisurely/indifferent attitude towards their marriage), and having received such a huge scare of almost losing Gui Wan, Lou Che cannot bear the idea of losing her, although he does not outwardly says it, but he has actually already chosen Gui Wan over Yao Ying the very moment Gui Wan mentioned the idea of them taking antagonistic stance against each other. His heart has already chosen Gui Wan hence his self questioning at the end “Gui Wan……what am I to do with you?” No matter what, there is no way the two can go back to playing brother and sister anymore at this point……and well, I guess I will keep General Lin to myself then hehehe
Phew~ I told you guys that chapter eight is just so action-packed right? Haha. There was also the revelation of Gui Wan’s relationship with the Empress, which is yet another point I had to refrain from mentioning to avoid spoilers. Thankfully it was split into two parts, or my mind would have exploded with everything that happened in this one chapter lol.
Ok, deep breath, take a moment to let everything sink in now…
I realise my comment section has gotten wayyy too long so I’ll just stop here hehe, I wouldn’t even blame you if you ignored my entire rambling 😄
As always hope you guys enjoyed the chapter! ^__^