“Gui Wan, you must remember, worldly matters are like a game of chess, you must never take a step of deviation……” A face of gorgeous beauty nears Gui Wan’s face, such face is actually bathed in bright clear tears, within misery there actually carries perseverance.
A little hand reaches out, but is still unable to reach the person’s face no matter how hard it tries to stretch out, tears, misery, gorgeous beauty, all seeming to blur together, Gui Wan immediately panics, murmuring: “Mother, mother……what’s wrong?” Why is her usually carefree and frank mother exposing such sorrowful expression?
“……no matter how beautiful one’s face is, all will become the bones of a beauty one day, in this world, there is nothing that lasts forever, feelings are even more so as temporary as fireworks. Never easily trust others from now on……”
“Mother, don’t cry anymore.” The little hand finally touches her mother’s face, gently wiping away the burning tears, Gui Wan smiles in a comforting manner, “I will definitely not easily trust others from now on, mother, please don’t cry anymore now.”
The beautiful woman reveals a very faint smile, holding up Gui Wan’s little hand as she walks forward, her lips gently reciting: “What harm is there in getting drunk for one’s lord; Only afraid when sobered up, the heartbreak that follows……Gui Wan, I have given you near-perfect beauty that all the women in the world desires, but I have taught you to be indifferent to feelings since young, do you understand my tough love?”
“As long as I don’t fall in love, I will not be pained, as long as I am indifferent to feelings, I will not be harmed……” Voice gradually fading out, as though separated by a veil of mist, the image grows increasingly obscure.
Mother……don’t……don’t be sad anymore……
“Mo—” A shrill voice pierces through the air, abruptly awakening from the darkness, Gui Wan desperately gasps for air, frosty chill filling her heart, irregularly beating, panicking to point that cannot be suppressed, her back oozing in sweat, she takes a deep deep breath, adjusting her mentality. Raising her head, an affectionately old face expands before her eyes.
“Lady, what’s wrong?” The old woman leans over, her wrinkly face showing a sense of protective love, “Did you have a nightmare?”
Lax eyes regaining consciousness, Gui Wan reveals a comforting smile of indifference, softly saying: “It’s nothing.” Upon speaking, she finds that her voice is actually hoarse, she turns her head in observation of her surroundings, the sounds of carriage wheels enters her ears, looking down, there are still three other people lying down within the horse carriage, all of different postures, looking as though they have not been startled awake.
Discreetly letting out a deep sigh of relief, Gui Wan gently leans against the carriage walls, restoring her calm, the happenings of the day flashing before her eyes. After drugging Mo Na and escaping, in accordance of several days of inquiring, she alone picks out a less used path in order to head down to the western city of the Nu Capital, there, is an area populated by a mix of Nu and Celestial Empire people, and is also the place that she is most likely to stay hidden in. Changing into commoner’s clothing, covering her face with fabric, and even then, she still felt unsafe, until she ran into this group of travelling merchants and performance troupe, only by using a silver ribbon could she bribe the leader of the performance troupe, allowing her to travel along with them. Faintly smiling, she unconsciously reaches out to stroke the cuff of her sleeves, her silver ribbon was made with Lou Che’s request to a skilled craftsmen who weaved wires of white gold with wild silk yarn, regardless of its intrinsic value, there is also only seven of them in this world.
No matter how valuable the ribbon is, it cannot be more valuable than one’s own safety, right now, she needs to do whatever it takes to get back to the Celestial Empire……
Gently waving the cuffs of her sleeve, her thoughts seems to be growing chaotic again, the dream from just now once again binding her heart, how long has it been……she has never dreamt of this again for a long time, why would it suddenly come back to her again? Anguish and depression faintly, harshly, spreading out from within her heart, could it be because she is facing a dangerous situation, thus causing her to recall the past?
Never trust anyone……in this world, you can only rely on yourself……
Her mother’s words pounds into her eardrums over and over again, causing her pain like that of needles pricking into her, such torturous pain spreads out from the bottom of her heart, her eyes absently staring off into one spot, Gui Wan bitterly laughs, mother, to never trust anyone, how lonely that makes me ah……
Exactly where is my sky?
“Lady, could you possibly be thinking of your family?” The old woman’s voice suddenly sounds again, cutting off Gui Wan’s rather gloomy thoughts.
“Yeah, recalled some things from the past.” Gui Wan very faintly smiles, despite that it cannot be clearly seen in the darkness, but the airy nonchalance in her tone, seems rather unreal.
“Lady, wait till it’s almost daybreak, and we’ll be reaching the border region between the Celestial Empire and Nu Tribe, another two days of travelling after that, and we shall arrive at the Celestial Empire’s city borders, and then you can return home……” The old woman is filled with high hopes, her deliberately lowered voice unable to conceal her great excitement.
“Lady, did you by chance meet with some sort of troubles?” Seeing Gui Wan say nothing, the old woman converses on her own, “If met with troubles, don’t get angered, if matters cannot be solved, then just rely on your heart to solve it. Sometimes, the conflict between reason and emotions, requires looking into what your heart says……”
“Heart……” She sounds a soft murmur like a sneer, wanting to refute her words, yet says nothing, suddenly, she recalls how a certain man once said to her, he will satisfy all her wants, her memories of that moment appears so vividly before her eyes, and she instantly slips in surprise.
“Lady, how did you get all the way here?” The old woman seems to be struggling to sleep, pestering Gui Wan as she mutters on nonstop, “How could you travel all alone, you must know, when women go out, they cannot do without a man ah……”
“The road here was indeed not very safe,” This voice suddenly sounds from below, only when she looked down, did she find, the three sleeping figures within the carriage had already woken up, and have heard the conversation between Gui Wan and the old woman, all of them sits up. Amongst them, a girl in yellow clothing says: “If not for special circumstances, who would go out all on their own?”
Seeing the girl’s glance directed towards herself, Gui Wan backs up into the dark a little.
The women inside the carriage can no longer go back to sleep, sitting together as they chat away, originally somewhat of a lonely room suddenly filled with support.
Within the sound of the women chattering, that girl in yellow suddenly turns to Gui Wan, asking: “What about you?”
Having yet to completely react, Gui Wan shows a face of loss, saying: “What?”
“We were asking you, why are you travelling all alone?”
After a moment of silence, she naturally couldn’t tell them the actual truth, Gui Wan gracefully answers: “I didn’t want to become other people’s burden, so I came out on my own.”
Seeing the three people’s puzzled expression, with only the old granny remaining thoughtfully in silence, Gui Wan closes her eyes, no longer saying anything more.
Why did she escape on her own, the reason is actually simple, she does not want to become Lou Che’s burden. The Nu Tribe abducted her there, Ye Li suppressed himself, not daring to offend her further, all of this makes one thing clear, the thing they want in exchange must be of extreme importance, perhaps it concerns the tribe’s entire nation. She only did whatever she could, this way, she would not become Lou Che’s burden.
Her top priority right now is to return to the Celestial Empire, spread the news, preventing Lou Che from going to the Nu Capital to make an exchange.
The value of myself is determined by myself, it is not up to anyone to manipulate my destiny, Gui Wan silently says this to herself with utmost certainty in her heart.
Just when the atmosphere livens up inside the carriage, the outside suddenly becomes noisy, the originally little noise, instantly spreads out, gradually increasing, the carriage is immediately silenced, Gui Wan is puzzled, softly asking: “What’s going on outside?”
The several women’s faces seems to tense up along with the increasingly loud noises. The girl in yellow crawls to the carriage opening, lightly opening a small crack in the door, turning her head back, her face pales, seriously saying: “Seems like we’ve encountered bandits.”
Two exclamations sounds within the carriage, the girl in yellow fiercely glares at them, snapping out: “What you panicking for, be quiet.”
Silence is once again restored. This horse carriage is originally the tail of the travelling merchants and performance troupe, sounds of fighting have yet to be heard upfront.
“This is too dangerous, why don’t we take advantage of the current situation and quickly jump out?” One of the women suggests, her expression filled with panic, even her words were somewhat incoherent.
“You think you can live if you jump out? Where do you think this is, this is the wilderness, if we don’t follow the carriage team, we’ll definitely die halfway there.” The girl in yellow once again snaps, her expression somewhat impatient, “We have no other choice right now, quickly take out all valuables, place it together. Then find something like ash or mud, and smear it all over your face.”
Infected by her calm attitude, the women all take out their valuables, placing them together. Not sure from where she found some sort of black powder, the girl in yellow first gathers some, smearing it onto her face, and even let loose her hair, suddenly becoming unkempt, seeing Gui Wan motionless, she pulls onto her, saying: “Do you not want to live?” Gathering more ash about to smear it, she suddenly see Gui Wan’s face revealed under the dim light, in a moment of hesitation, she freezes.
“You……” Breaking out of her trance, she opens her mouth not knowing what to say, once again gathering a load of black ash, smearing it onto Gui Wan’s face, she carefully, thoroughly covers her face, whilst ordering her: “In a bit, you must definitely stay behind me, must lay low.” Withdrawing her hand, she still feels uneasy, once again sprinkling more black powder onto Gui Wan’s body, and only then did she turn around and focus on others.
The noise outside seems to be getting louder, and also getting closer, the women sits in a circle, speechlessly gazing at each other. Gui Wan was also rather panicky, she has never ran into a situation like this before, right now, she is feeling even more at loss and helpless.
These past two days, she has always been on alert, she feels so so tired, in face of crisis at this very moment, she cannot help but to think of everything, amongst this chaotic mess, that blurry figure once again returns to her mind, the one who vowed to protect her, to dote on her……
If, if she really manages to once again return to the Celestial Empire, manages to once again return to his side, she suddenly thinks of something, if she really manages to return, she must ask him:
Do you love me?
Can you love me?
Can you love me more than anyone in this world?
Because my soul……is too lonely.
No sound can be heard within the darkness, only the sound of the people’s tense and irregular breathing can be heard within the carriage, but Gui Wan actually feels at peace, the entire state of her mind has reached a state of lucidity.
The carriage doors suddenly sounds a series of desperate knocks, the women all simultaneously look over, within the darkness, their vision blurs, only the carriage door would sound a loud bang from time to time, the group of women inside could feel the carriage shake, with a sound of “kuang”, the carriage doors are opened from the outside. All the women shrinks backwards, trembling, they dare not to make a single move, Gui Wan positioned behind the girl in yellow, looks outside, outside the carriage stands three tall strong men, their faces vicious, carrying an air of cold brutality.
“Come out, all come out.” The man stood in front amongst the three, harshly shouts, seeing the entire carriage filled with women, they did not get physical, only yelling with their mouths.
The five of them follows the order and slowly gets off the carriage, the girl in yellow being first to step out, amongst the five women, there is even one who was scared numb, unable to stand firmly as she got off the carriage, thus falling to the ground, the three brawny men grew impatient, constantly yelling as they lead the five people to the central carriage team.
The skies had yet to brighten up, all ranks of the travelling merchants and performance troupe stands together, everyone’s complexion not looking too good, the travelling merchant leader and performance troupe leader even more so had faces of soil colour, the several guards of the carriage team seems to have been injured, lying to the side wailing, yet no one took any notice.
Along the way, Gui Wan keeps her head lowered, following behind the girl in yellow, everywhere around them because of the fight that occurred, appears extremely messy. Bloodstains everywhere, the view making people tremble in fear. The five of them were rushed to where the females stand, a large number of women snuggling into a ball, muffled sobs floating around in the air, stirring everyone to feel troubled at heart and perplexed in mind.
The bandits also forms a circle, circling around the gathering of people, holding the fire torches up high, lighting up half the sky.
“Is this all the money?” A shrill voice sounds, a thin person clad in black stands in centre, loudly asking the performance troupe leader and travelling merchant leader who were begging for mercy, his face showing a look of disbelief.
“That really is all we have, with the huge disaster in the Nu Tribe, we couldn’t earn any money, so are returning to the Celestial Empire……” Seeing the person appear to refuse to believe this, the travelling merchant leader almost cried out loud, his plump body now bent into a ball, “We really have no more. May this hero please show mercy ah.”
The performance troupe leader at the side was already stunned, trembling as he dares not to speak. The petite figure in black upon seeing this, lowly curses out loud, running up to a brawny man who appears to be the leader, whispering into his ears. The brawny man stands up, heading over to the middle group, the rest of the brotherhood upon seeing him approach, all steps aside to make way for him.
The brawny man reaches the middle, looking over the performance troupe leader and travelling merchant leader several times, being glared at by those sharp and moody eyes, the performance troupe leader also couldn’t support himself any longer, wordlessly passing out. A slight cry is sounded from the group of women, but immediately fades, no one dares to make another sound. The brawny man very quickly glances over the one who fainted on the ground, walking up to where all the valuables have been gathered, and roughly observes the gold and silver goods on the ground.
“These bandits seems to only raid valuables and not kill, our luck can be considered pretty good.” The girl in yellow softly says to Gui Wan behind her.
Gui Wan returns a smile, quietly saying: “It seems so.”
Seeing Gui Wan’s black smeared face seeming to not show any particular signs of panic, the girl in yellow inevitably grew curious, secretly thinking what kind of identity this girl has.
Whilst the two of them quietly spoke, the brawny man in the middle was just about to leave after looking through the valuables, when he suddenly turns back, taking another careful look at the valuables on the ground, crouching down, he picks out a silver ribbon from amongst the valuables, revealing a very faint trace of surprise and wonder. Everyone did not understand, he did not show any interest towards other valuables, yet picks out a very humble looking ribbon, indeed, it is extremely strange. The brawny mind thinks for a moment, waving his hand to summon an underling, making someone hold the other end of the ribbon, he draws out his broadsword, amidst a burst of screams, the blade ruthlessly cuts down at the middle of the ribbon.
The ribbon remains the same, it did not split into two like everyone has expected, causing everyone to receive a shock, followed by a burst of quiet mumbles. Even the girl in yellow shows a face of surprise, softly mumbling: “That’s……wild silk yarn right?”
Gui Wan softly chews on her lips, using the light from the fire, she carefully observes that brawny man, a well-defined square face, stern expression, slightly different from the average bandits. Deep inside, she grows a little nervous, Gui Wan knits her brows together, attentively looking on from the sides.
The brawny man loudly yells out: “Whose is this?” His voice loud and clear, suddenly echoing throughout the open wilderness. Everyone looks at one another, all simultaneously revealing a look of fear.
The performance troupe leader lying on the ground, slowly wakes up at this moment, under such yelling, he once again pulls up his entire body, seeing the ribbon in the brawny man’s hand, he starts panicking, piling words onto words, his mouths repeatedly mutters: “It’s not……it’s not mine……”
Unable to help but to curse out in her mind, Gui Wan bitterly smiles, this performance troupe leader confesses without being under duress, really is stupid to an unreachable level, thinking of her own safety, she leans back slightly, completely hiding herself behind the girl in yellow.
The brawny man’s eyes instantly flashes over, looking at the performance troupe leader on the ground, asking: “It is yours?”
“No……it’s not……it is……is……” Under the brawny man’s forceful prowess, the performance troupe leader is unable to make any sense of his words, sometimes denying, sometime affirming, with a sudden chilling glare from the brawny man, he desperately cries out, “It was given by someone, it doesn’t……count as mine.”
“Oh?” Revealing an expression of a cold smile, rich in meaning, the brawny man puts his broadsword away, “Such a rare ribbon of white gold and wild silk yarn, what kind of stupid honorary person would keep this on them?”
Once the performance troupe leader hears this, he immediately looks towards the gathering of females, when Gui Wan gave it him, it was midnight, the skies were dark and gloomy, plus her face was covered, although he did not get a clear look of her face, those pair of eyes that were more beautiful than stars left the performance troupe leader with a deep impression, now that he is desperate to protect his life, he hastily searches amongst the crowd of people.
Gui Wan’s face is smeared grey, in rough clothing, mixed within the crowd; not to mention the skies has yet to brighten up at this moment, the light of the fire torches also didn’t reach very far, causing the performance troupe leader to grow uncontrollably panicky, how is he to recognise her, such boundless surroundings, his face grows even more pale, mumbling: “It was clearly a……woman who gave it me……it was clearly……”
The brawny man reveals a look of impatience, the performance troupe leader becomes even more nervous to even stop, just when everyone thought the performance troupe leader was bound to die, a rumbling sound can be heard from a distance, and gently, gradually, grows louder, everyone starts panicking, not knowing what else could happen to them tonight.
The girl in yellow listens carefully for a while, her expression suddenly changes, currently showing a look of difficulty, she quietly speaks, not clear whether she is speaking to Gui Wan or speaking to herself: “This is the sound of hooves of an army……”
The sound is clearly coming from the direction they came from, Gui Wan’s heart suddenly tightens, face also pales slightly.
The ones who are looking worse than Gui Wan is perhaps the bandits, hearing the hooves of a regular army, they wildly pick up all the valuables, planning to run for their lives. The carriage team seems to have met their saviours, expressing cheers of joy, originally soft sounding, but upon seeing the bandits planning to flee the scene, the noise starts to get louder, echoing throughout the land. The daring and also injured guards of the carriage team also summons up their courage, some running forward, wanting to snatch back the stolen goods, the scene suddenly turns chaotic, getting out of hand.
The girl in yellow turns back, saying to Gui Wan: “I presume it is the Nu Tribe army coming.” Suddenly noticing Gui Wan’s expression, she asks in puzzlement: “What’s wrong?”
“The arrival of the army, to me, isn’t necessarily a good thing.” Gui Wan smiles, bitterness composing the majority of the smile.
Who would have thought that when the girl in yellow heard this, her smeared black face would reveal a sweet smile, joyfully saying: “You too? What a coincidence, it’s the same for me. How about we think of a way to get out of here whilst it’s chaotic?”
Unable to control the expression of surprise, Gui Wan looks at her, thinking of how she performed earlier, indeed not like the average girl, thinking a little, the sound of joy filled shouting suddenly travels to her ears, raising her head to look over, a Nu army is already at a short distance away, someone amongst the carriage team says in surprise: “It’s Prince Ye Li’s army ah.”
Gently gritting her teeth, Gui Wan faces the girl in yellow and nods her head, saying in a firm tone: “Okay, let us give it a try.”
 The last lines of Anxiety of a Beauty by Qin Guan, also mentioned in chapter 12.
Although a less eventful chapter than the previous one, I guess this chapter is richer in the emotions it delivers from Gui Wan’s dream of her mother, to her feelings of loneliness, although she does not say she loves Lou Che, she expresses her inner desire to have someone to relieve her years of cultivated indifference and thus loneliness, I guess as her husband, as the man who made those heavy promises, Lou Che is the one she wishes to turn to, to place her faith on, to help her to relieve such a miserable life that her mother has drilled into her.