A Fright At The Dead Of Night (Part One)
The spring days are lengthening out, the plants and trees grow full of verdure. The oriole’s cry comes jie-jie, [our wives] go in crowds to gather the white southernwood.
“Spring days may be lengthening, but the days are still passing by,” Gui Wan mumbles seemingly smiling, lightly turning her head, she sees the person approaching and asks: “[Older] Brother, what brings you here?”
The approaching person has a very ordinary face, together with his decent looks, virtually no one would have thought that the two people sat opposite one another were actually biological siblings. Yu Yan He laughs, his ordinary face looking upright and honest, “Before setting off on a long journey, I wanted to come see you.”
Gui Wan laughs, revealing not the slightest bit of surprise, under her eyes was fleeting trace of loneliness as she leisurely asks: “Must you really have to leave?”
Hearing her words hold such sorrow that cannot be hidden, Yu Yan He receives a slight shock, he firmly nods his head twice, expressing his own resolution, before turning to once again call out: “Gui Wan……” Turns out, the following words, he could not even bring himself to say, sorrow washes over him, such emotion on his guileless face, appears particularly heartfelt. To leave Gui Wan all alone in this Capital City, he has too much to apologise for, yet the words are unable to leave his mouth.
“I understand,” Interrupting him from further speaking, Gui Wan’s lips hooks up into a sweet smile, saying: “What I don’t understand is, why did Brother choose Jin Yang City?” That is clearly the Empress’ hometown……she does not want to tread into the deeper meanings behind this, because she has a hunch that amongst them, there is a reason that will make her heart tremble.
“……The Empress is in a very difficult situation right now, Gui Wan.” A simple sentence, yet it felt like thunder in spring, loudly striking the ground.
Knitting her brows together, Gui Wan faintly says: “That has nothing to do with Brother.” Her heart rejects this conversation topic, a sort of long absent feeling of unwillingness once again rises within her.
“How could it not, Gui Wan, you clearly know how problematic the current situation is.” Just thinking of his un-fateful older sister’s days in the palace, his guilt would spread out boundlessly, mother’s face once again appearing before him, the mother who has never once given him an ounce of love, the gentle words said before her death, he shall never dare to forget.
Gui Wan tightly presses her lips together, not saying a single word, when thinking back to the conversation with Lou Che in the tent, her heart will suddenly feel sour, she does not want to become enemies with him, in terms politics, how scary of an enemy he is; in terms of feelings, to become enemies with him, how difficult and painful it will be for her……suddenly thinking of something, she asks in surprise: “How did Brother know of the Empress’ identity?”
“When mother passed away, I already knew.” Yu Yan He face appears miserable again.
“Brother,” Gui Wan’s chest rises and falls along with her voice, attentively looking at that unpretentious face, she reminds: “The world is a man’s world, the back palace is a woman’s back palace. This is not a problem you can intervene with.”
“Traditionally, the back palace and imperial court are closely linked together, right now, Consort Ying’s arrogance has already grown too insufferably powerful, just how long can the Empress’ seat be protected, one year, two years……or is it ten years?”
Gui Wan says nothing, absentmindedly looking at the person in front, her heart feeling heavy. After a long moment of silence, she is still indecisive, exactly how is she to choose? No matter what choice is made, they all seem to be wrong, every choice will later be regretted, to weaken Consort Ying’s power, is easier said than done, what about Lou Che? Questions forms in her mind, one after the other, the building pressure causing her to start panicking.
Noticing her hesitation, Yu Yan He takes out a small piece of paper from his sleeve, spreading it before Gui Wan’s eyes. Gui Wan accepts it, having glanced over the words on the paper, she freezes, such exceptionally graceful handwriting, is clearly from the hand of the Empress, the words were dark red, a letter written in blood, on the little piece of paper, it says: protect the land, protect my royal child, protect the elder statesman. Each stroke hooks onto the heart, each word works up one’s emotions, from these quivering strokes, the Empress’s heart pain pours out.
From her mind, the image involuntarily emerges before her, the Empress’ wretched smile, the scene of her kneeling before her, the mournfulness when she was crying as she requests for her to protect her son and father, the resolution in her smile as she spoke of protecting the land. Thinking and thinking, even her heart was turning sour at the thoughts, Gui Wan could only bitterly smile, right now, how could she give up on the weeping older sister deep within the palace?
“Before Hu Guo Temple, this is what the Empress sent out from the palace, it’s been left with me for a month now, a few days ago, I finally received another written message from the palace with great difficulty, after you’ve read it, decide for yourself.” During Gui Wan’s moment of contemplation, Yu Yan He takes out another identical piece of paper, passing it over.
Actually feeling afraid to accept this, this little piece of paper, with such immensely heavy air around it, Gui Wan thinks for a long time, and in the end, she still extends her hand to take hold of it. Upon opening it up, she sees a half a poem: The spring breeze naturally resents the relentless water, it blows east and the water continuously flows west.
Placing the two pieces of paper together, Gui Wan found it difficult to speak in this moment, crumpling the papers into one, she raises her head and faces Yu Yan He, “Brother, have you already made up your mind?”
Without answering her question, Yu Yan He only looks at her steadily, his eyes filled with gentleness.
The time between them seems to have been silent for a long, long time, so long that Gui Wan had almost forgotten where she is, matters that occurred over the past half of the year and more, revisits her mind, scene by scene, she is searching for answers. Having returned from Feng Qi Slope, this past month, she had spent recuperating her body, avoiding all the worldly controversies, knowing that the Empress’ title has been protected, she was greatly relieved, at the same time, she found a few contemporarily prestigious strategists and educationists, in efforts to learn the art of trickeries, could it be that, this is also her subconsciously preparing for the future?
No matter how she thinks about it, there is no results, Gui Wan sighs in resignation, noticing that her brother is waiting for her answer, she spreads out a smile on her face: since there is no answer, then from now on, she can slowly search for it, perhaps, she will find a perfect solution that’s best for both sides.
Seeing a hidden meaning within her smile, Yu Yan He knows she found an answer, and also relaxes. Watching as Gui Wan walks up to the study desk, taking a brush, grinding the ink, he was rather puzzled, walking up to her, he continues to watch as Gui Wan takes out a piece of paper, writing something on it. He was about to join her, when the paper was already handed to him, Gui Wan’s voice was filled with cheeriness as she says: “Before Brother leaves, think of a way to pass this to the Empress.”
Yu Yan He speechlessly accepts the piece of paper, his steady eyes glances over the two short phrases:
Fragrant flower and plants have already passed by so why is it necessary to hate, summer activities in the shade is [also] pleasant.
Having sent off her older brother, Gui Wan quietly sits inside the study room alone, within this quiet environment, she feels a sense of loneliness and solitude that she has never experienced before. Because of the conversation with her older brother before, questions that she had originally been avoiding can no longer be avoided, the road ahead is immeasurable, and she cannot clearly see what the future holds anymore.
In her moment of deep thoughts, a burst of knocks sounds outside the door. She gets on her feet, opens the door, and was just about to question, when she sees Lou Che standing outside, within his elegant smile, there holds a hidden meaning that one cannot grasp onto. A group of guards stands behind him, there were also two efficient and clever looking maids.
Slightly surprised, she asks him: “Lord Husband, what happened?”
Lou Che watches as Gui Wan walks out from the study room, he lightly frowns, and throws a signal at the guards behind him, seeing the guards spread out, he walks up to the door frame, blocking Gui Wan’s line of sight as he beckons a maid to pass over a cloak, gently wrapping it around Gui Wan’s body, with a voice as gentle as water, he says: “You’ve only just recovered……didn’t I say to take care of yourself?”
Seeing Gui Wan step out from the house, her beautiful face lit pink with powder, leading people into a trance, he could not help but to lower his head and lightly kiss her cheek, when he had just came in contact with her smooth, delicate face, a faint fragrance drifts out, it was as though he got bewitched as his kisses, densely, gently, lands on the side of Gui Wan’s face, on her neck.
A limp, numbing feeling spreads through her entire body, Gui Wan turns her head in avoidance. Even since returning from Feng Qi Slope, Lou Che has been acting more affectionate with such intimate acts, causing her to not know what to do, her heart feels a little nervous, from the corner of her eyes, she notices the two maids are still behind, and immediately feels ashamed and embarrassed.
Lou Che lightly releases Gui Wan, noticing where she is looking, he faintly laughs as he says: “Here are the maids I have picked out for you, they will be taking care of your diet and daily life from now on.”
Gui Wan frowns, instantly feeling uncertain. Her personal maid has always been Ling Long alone, the estate is also swarming with servants, to suddenly receive an addition of two personal maids gives her a strange feeling, she vaguely feels like something has happened, at a turn of an eye, she sees that the guards from just now, have already spread into every corner, the security of this courtyard has clearly been strengthened. This only makes her feel even more doubtful.
The two maids walks up front, kneeling before Gui Wan as they say: “I am Ru Qing (Ru Ming), greeting Madam.” The two people are not only synchronised in action, synchronised in speech, even the tone of their voices are exactly the same, Gui Wan was also secretly amazed, unaware that there are such highly trained maids in the estate.
Seeing the Gui Wan does not seem to be rejecting this arrangement, Lou Che’s heart was half relieved. As soon as he left the imperial court assembly, he immediately made a series of preparations, he must thoroughly protect the woman before him, she just seem to always manage to easily tread into his heart, affecting his mood, plus the situation seems to have become increasingly serious. He lets out a little laugh, secretly thinking: could it be that pampering can also become addictive?
Ordering for the two maids to rise, hundreds of thoughts goes through Gui Wan’s head, thinking of the written message from the Empress just now, thinking of Lou Che safeguarding Consort Ying in court, all of a sudden, her feelings were in a complicated mess.
Lou Che pulls Gui Wan along to the dining room for dinner, along the way, Gui Wan found that, there are indeed much more guards than usual, fortifying this Prime Minister Estate, this brings greater certainty to her original thoughts, so something really did happen. Plus, seeing Lou Che’s behaviour, could this matter be related to her, but thinking of it like this, she too cannot imagine what this could be about, lightly shaking her head, she laughs at herself for thinking too much, it is not the time to dwell on this matter right now, what she needs to think about now is, how she could stealthily bypass Lou Che’s eyes, and help the Empress securely anchor her status……
Up till it was time to sleep, she was still thinking about this problem. Between this time, the two maids were indeed clever and well behaved, quick to complete all tasks, not at all any less than Ling Long, it’s just that, they do not like to speak nor laugh, just like people made of wood, something Gui Wan feels a little unaccustomed to.
Lying down, her thoughts were like tidal waves, repeatedly thinking over the problem, trying to find the roots of trouble, also thinking of a solution that will be best for the two opposing sides in future, to be able to aid the Empress, but also not cause any harm to Consort Ying. Thinking for a long time, it was still a huge mess, sigh, could it be that worldly affairs are all so brutal, with essentially no way to satisfy both sides?
Right in this moment when her mind was in chaos, a subtle aroma faintly drifts in, entering her nose, her body thus starts feeling light, her thoughts gradually sinking, such comfort makes one sigh in satisfaction. A vague thought flashes by her mind, getting the feeling that there is something not right with this aroma, without waiting for her reaction, the darkness has completely enveloped her……
In her hazy dream, there seems to be someone hovering over her bed, who is it?
This isn’t right, it’s not a dream, Gui Wan abruptly opens her eyes, she sits up, and catches a black shadow flashing past, receiving a fright, Gui Wan lightly cries out, without waiting for her to completely react, the black shadow leaps outside. Seeing him leave within a flash, Gui Wan has just let out a sigh of relief, when she hears a wave of fighting sounds from outside, knowing that the man in black has ran into the guards, Gui Wan gets out of bed, her steps reaches the door, and she wanders out, a burst of cold wind meets her, and only then did she realise she was dripping in cold sweat.
She looks up towards the courtyard, to find that the man in black is fighting two people, those two people were actually the maids Ru Qing and Ru Ming, the man in black is no doubt highly skilled in martial arts, but the two maids were not any less than him, every strike ruthless and piercing, not at all sloppy. The sound of the three people fighting spreads out, and not long after, a load more guards sprung out like bamboo shoots after the spring rain, gathering around the man in black, Gui Wan coldly watches on from the side, the more she thinks about it, the stranger it seems to be, she does not understand martial arts, so why does she feel that the man in blacks’ actions seems vaguely familiar……as though she has seen it somewhere before.
In this dark night, three figures endlessly fights on in the Prime Minister Estate, a gathering of guards surrounding the three of them, Gui Wan attentively watches this war-like situation, even if she does not understand martial arts in the slightest bit, she too can see that Ru Qing, Ru Ming, the two people act in harmony, with perfect teamwork, didn’t think that Lou Che had actually given her two maids of such formidable power……once again looking back at the man in black, her doubts deepens, from looking at his actions, this mysterious person does not want to cause her any harm, if so, then what is his objective?
Endless thoughts tumbles as she absentmindedly stands by the room door, when she was suddenly overcome with warmth, an additional outer wear hangs over her body, she turns her head, meeting Lou Che’s worried eyes, a gentle and warm voice coming out: “Let’s go in, careful you don’t catch a cold.” So he too has come after hearing the fight. In face of Lou Che’s hinting, she stands in her original spot without moving.
Lou Che helps Gui Wan drape on an outer wear, and tidy up her slightly dishevelled hair, upon lightly taking hold of her hand, he feels it was somewhat icy cold, and anger flares up deep down in his heart, abruptly taking half a step forward, he covers the majority of Gui Wan’s line of sight, lightly raising his hand to make a simple action, the guards acted with amazingly swift pace, spreading out into a fan shape, they raise their bow and arrows on standby, consistently aligning their aim at the man in black.
Seeing such a fuss, Gui Wan was also able to guess, not long later, the man in black can only become a hedgehog, silently letting out a sigh, she turns back to her room. It was at this moment of turning, that an unexpected movement from the man in black, caught her attention, the man in black forces Ru Qing two steps back, suddenly reaching into his chest and dug out an inch long accessory, in the dark, a faint silver light flashes by, Gui Wan freezes, this thing, there is no way she could forget, it is the Nu’s insect venom……
The man in black raises the short flute and blows into it, no sound was emitted, the two maids and all the guards fell into incessant surprise. Her memories resurges, Gui Wan lets out a small cry in shock: “Not good.”
Hearing her blurt out those words, Lou Che frowns, ordering the guards: “Everyone disperse.” Once the gathering of guards heard this, they took several steps back, and the circle they formed suddenly expanded by a lot. Right when everyone were in a state of puzzlement, a sudden “weng” sound approaches, heading straight to the middle of the courtyard, within the darkness, everyone pulls themselves together to take a look, it’s actually a bunch of unidentifiable worms.
No one would have thought that they would actually come across something like this, everyone was thrown into chaos, in this chaotic moment, Lou Che coldly calls out: “Light the fire.” Hearing the order, even the usually well trained guards, could not immediately calm down, not long after, the courtyard was lit up with a fire as bright as day. Insects are generally afraid of firelight, right now with the courtyard lit ablaze, the worms disappears without a trace, even the man in black fled in disarray.
Ru Qing, Ru Ming and all the guards kneels down in unison, not daring to make a move, Lou Che’s face is as usual, his feelings concealed, warmly smiling, he says: “All right now, you’re all pardoned.” Hearing him say this, everyone lets out a sigh of relief, immediately leaving the courtyard, istantly, the courtyard sinks back into darkness.
Lou Che turns around, and sees the side of Gui Wan’s beautiful face hidden in the shadows, he gently consoles her saying: “Do not worry, I will take care of it.”
Faintly hooking up the corner of her lips in a smile, Gui Wan says nothing, her eyes falls upon the middle of the courtyard, only feeling that within this scene of absence and darkness, it seems as though even her heart has sunken into such immeasurable space.
Standing in his original spot next to her, Lou Che’s face shows no emotions, his thoughts like tidal waves, thinking of what happened in the morning, and then to actually have Nu’s people breaking into the Prime Minister Estate at night, could it be that there’s someone leaking out secrets within the imperial court?
After what happened tonight, Gui Wan could not sleep.
 The opening lines of this chapter actually comes from the final verse of the poem Chū chē / 出车 which means Driving out the car/cart/carriage. The poem itself is recorded in the Chinese classic, Shī Jīng / 诗经 or Book of Poetry / Book of Odes in the Xiǎo yǎ / 小雅 or Minor Odes of the Kingdom section. I also like to declare – DISCLAIMER for the translation, I thought it would be better to let you guys read the official english translation by James Legge (and ahem…because of my own laziness 😛 ), if you want to read the whole poem itself, please click on the following link: http://ctext.org/book-of-poetry/chu-che [Note that these poems are classic texts so it only makes sense that it is written in traditional Chinese characters, although I kept with simplified Chinese in this footnote]
 The spring breeze naturally resents the relentless water, it blows east and the water continuously flows west:
Chūn fēng zì hèn wú qíng shuǐ / 春风自恨无情水
Chuī dé dōng liú jìng rì xī / 吹得东流竟日西
The poem is used to express feelings of pain in the much cherished spring time. The water relentlessly flows as it defies the breeze that blows east, whilst it continues to flow west, expressing how quick time passes by, and the spring breeze can do nothing about it.
 Fragrant flower and plants have already passed by so why is it necessary to hate, summer activities in the shade is [also] pleasant:
Fāng fēi guò jǐn hé xū hèn / 芳菲过尽何须恨
Xià mù yīn yīn zhèng kě rén / 夏目荫荫正可人
Honestly, I’m not actually too sure if this translation is accurate, poems can be so difficult to translate haha. But it should still be somewhat accurate because this is a response to the previous poem, and Gui Wan is optimistically cheering up the Empress by saying – since the fragrant spring has already passed, what’s the point in hating, isn’t the lush green shades of summer just as pleasant? – which is basically her way of saying cherish the present and let go of the past
 The Chinese phrase used to describe sloppiness – in action of course – is tuō ní dài shuǐ / 拖泥带水 translates to dragging [things] through mud and water and thus causing a mess in the process.
At first I thought that Gui Wan’s family did not seem all that nice, with each parent liking one particular child and disliking/neglecting the other, but at least the children of the family or are all great individuals. Gui Wan’s older brother Yu Yan He is just so nice, too nice, despite the love that Gui Wan got from their mother as compared to the neglect he got, he still genuinely cares for Gui Wan as well as their dead mother’s dying wish. It’s just so heartwarming to see that scene and the interaction between them, and to see the unspoken care and love they share.
Honestly I don’t think we are ever told for sure that the Empress knows of her relationship with Gui Wan but it is hinted that she knows. I wish they could gave us more details and develop this “bond” between them, as there are still confusing points concerning the connection of relationship between Gui Wan’s mother and the Empress’ family.
Lou Che is set on protecting Gui Wan right now, he knows that Gui Wan must have met the Nu Prince at some point in time, and probably has his own suspicions, but even at this point, he still does not question her, and is just set keeping for safe and sound.