This was the first time that it was difficult to sleep. I laid on the bed, tossing and turning. No matter what I did, I couldn’t throw the image of Lu Hai Kong’s pale face off my mind. I sat up and sighed deeply. Chu Kong, that bastard, how did he become like this after reincarnation? He was obviously a hateful and cocky man. How did he become like this?
As long as Lu Hai Kong made me mad once, even if it was only once, then I could heartlessly get rid of him! Why?! Why...why have that kind of expression?! That grieving expression made me feel guilty.
I sighed deeply again. Suddenly, I saw a black shadow in front of my room. I raised an eyebrow, wondering if it was student Qing Shan and Hei Wu. But then I heard a subtle muttering in front of my door, and my heart tightened. It was Lu Hai Kong. Even after being wronged, he still came to look for me. Really...he really wouldn’t let me get mad even once.
He was only muttering at the doorway, not knocking and not coming in. Actually, I was worried and went to the door. Through the door, I heard him muttering to himself, “Yun Xiang, I’m sorry. I wasn’t refusing to admit, I was thinking about how I could refuse uncle and how to mention... mention... Yun Xiang. I’m sorry, it’s my fault...”
He kept repeating those words several times, repeating the same phrases all over again. I was anxious after listening him, so I pulled the door open and asked, “What did you want to mention to your uncle?”
Lu Hai Kong was caught off-guard when I opened the door. He stared at me blankly. His face turned red, but after a while, it turned white.
I couldn’t guess his mind. I took a deep breath and was about to apologize to him, but he grabbed my sleeves and whispered, “Yun Xiang, I’m not white-eyed wolf. I know my right eye isn’t beautiful, but... don’t be disgusted by my eye and don’t be disgusted of me.”
Even the most complex emotion, even the words that I wanted to say to him, had been broken by his sentence.
He had been lingering at my door for so long and had prepared so many things to say. But when he saw me, he said such a sentence.
Although he had never mentioned it, I knew that this eye injury of his had become his Achilles heel. I also knew how much my words hurt him. I now also knew that he was really afraid that I would despise him.
For some time, looking at him, I didn’t know what sort of emotions to show.
Fifteen year-old Lu Hai Kong was already taller than me. For the first time, I looked seriously at his eye. In his eyes, the snow in the courtyard that had been lit by the moonlight looked really bright. This child really existed. He wasn’t a fleeting fragment of Chu Kong’s life but a real person living a real life.
I clearly understood that Song Yun Xiang’s life was just a bubble, but in Lu Hai Kong’s eyes, this was his whole life. His only life.
Tonight was really cold. With one hand, I held onto the door while I used the other to pull Lu Hai Kong into a hug. Both hands were now clutching his back, holding him tightly.
Lu Hai Kong’s already stiff body became stiffer.
“Yun Yun Yun Yun Yun....Xiang?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Those were only words said out of anger. I’m sorry. I’m not disgusted by you. Don’t be sad.”
Lu Hai Kong didn’t move, but his stiff body loosened. He hesitated for a moment before he put his hands on my back. He held me loosely, as though he felt that if he held me tighter, he would offend me. I heard him sigh in my ear, “Yun Xiang, at that time, I didn’t say anything because I was just thinking about how to refuse uncle and how to mention...mention marrying you.”
I looked down because I didn’t want to look him in the eye.
“These few years, there was no opportunity. I also delayed Yun Xiang. As it happens, now there is some free time, so, so I thought we could marry... just now, I also convinced uncle. Yun Xiang, do you agree to this marriage?”
I couldn’t think of anything, so I just told him, “I need to return to the capital to help my father. I’m going to marry the third prince.”
His face paled hearing those words. I pushed Lu Hai Kong away. I scratched my head and said, “You don’t have to worry, I’m still pondering.”
Lu Hai Kong tugged at my sleeve and didn’t let go.
“I know that Yun Xiang sacrificed many things when you came with me to the north, and you’ve also suffered a lot of injustice. No matter what, you’ve always stayed by my side. I know that Yun Xiang is good to me; I don’t want to disappoint Yun Xiang....”
I rubbed my forehead. I hadn’t really experienced much injustice after I came here. Firstly, because I was at Lan Xiang’s liquor house the whole day, I hadn’t heard much gossip. Secondly, I, as the daughter of the prime minister, had been living safe and sound on the ‘enemy’s ground’ because of Lu Hai Kong. He would have suffered more injustice than I did.
Ordinarily, in these circumstances, I would’ve accepted his proposal. Yet this afternoon, student Qing Shan brought such a news. Although in this life, I didn’t have much sense, but filial piety was still something that I needed to keep.
I thought for a long time, before I finally thought of an excuse. “Lu Hai Kong, you said I’m good to you, and that you didn’t want to disappoint me, but do you love me?”
After asking this, I shuddered. I kept the nauseating feelings in check and kept asking, “You respect me, you honor me, but what I want is not these. This is not love between man and woman; this is not love between couples. You...need to think again.”
Lu Hai Kong was startled. He didn’t think that I would say those words. He thought for a moment, then said, “I don’t understand that, but in this life, I will not marry someone else. Yun Xiang, the one who needs to think again is you.”
He didn’t force me to explain anything. He just smiled and said, “Yun Xiang, if you’re willing, come to me and say it. If you want to postpone it, then we’ll postpone it. The nights are cold. Yun Xiang, you need to keep warm. I’ll go back first.”
Looking at his disappearing figure, I firmly covered my face. Brat, do not laugh so beautifully, ah! You made me look like a child who had lost her temper! I was really embarrassed!
Three days later, I left a letter on the table in my room; I’m going to the mountain to hunt, and I don’t know when I’ll return. Lu Hai Kong, if you’ve decided to fight in the army, then fight. Don’t wait for me to come back before you marry.
Finally, I had decided to go alone to the south gate to follow student Qing Shan and Hei Wu back to the capital. I left because I knew that Lu Hai Kong could live well without me now, and because in the capital, there was aged father Song. There was also my maid Cui Bi, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, along with many other people. They didn’t deserve to die because of the so-called political struggle, like what had happened to the general mansion five years ago—being burned to death without finding even the corpse.
If I go back, I could help them. I should go back.
The traveling back was a lot faster than traveling here. All the way, the roads were full of warning signs, the faces of the commoners full of panic. Unknowingly, I was also really nervous. In the north, I had isolated myself very well, and Lu Hai Kong had protected me very well too.
On the fifth day, after crossing the northern border and passing another city, we would enter the territory where the court was in control. Student Qing Shan had changed my facial features to look like an old woman. He and Hei Wu were my sons now. We were role-playing that the sons were bringing their mother home. Although I objected to the role of an old mother, after thinking of how I was already a few hundred years old, being called mother was nothing big, so I reluctantly agreed.
Passing the last gate, the soldiers were doing a routine inspection. Suddenly another soldier, riding on a horse, came to the leader. He stopped the horse and shouted, “Urgent mission! Withhold all the young women! They’re not allowed to leave the city!”
While he was shouting, the other soldiers blocked the path of everyone and said, “Young women are not allowed to leave the city.”
The soldier in green, on the horse, stopped at the gate. He took out a portrait and said, “All those who have some resemblance to this portrait, no matter man or women, young or old, bring them all to the protector’s mansion.”
Hei Wu and student Qing Shan tensed up behind me. Student Qing Shan whispered, “Miss, keep your head down. Don’t look up.”
I wondered about a deep question.
“How close is the resemblance?”
I heard the two behind me sigh. I didn’t understand why they’re sighing. I looked up at the portrait and froze instantly. Which artist could paint me so perfectly?
In the north, aside from Lu Hai Kong, who would observe me that closely? My mind was complicated. I bent down to look like an old woman.
The young woman were detained, and the soldiers checked everyone. Student Qing Shan walked on my right side, pretending to support me. Hei Wu was walking a step behind us. Passing the soldiers, Student Qin Shan started acting. He softly called, “Mother, the officers are just checking; it’s nothing.”
I was too lazy to care about him, so I only bowed my head and kept walking.
We had almost passed the gate when suddenly a soldier called, “Elderly, can you please lift your head a little?”
After I heard those words, I hesitated. If I’m caught here, then I and Lu Hai Kong.....
I was still thinking, when Hei Wu grabbed my hand.
I stared at him blankly when he said, “I apologize.”
While saying that, he lifted me with his powerful hands and threw me over his shoulders. At that moment, student Qing Shan pulled out a sword from his waist. Before the soldier could say anything, student Qing Shan had already stabbed his horse’s eyes.
The horse stomped his hooves and made miserable sounds. Hei Wu shouted, “Run!”
They dodged the footsteps of the horse and stepped on the shoulders of those who had fallen to the ground to run out of the gate.
I was laying on Hei Wu’s shoulder, watching the chaos at the gate. I didn’t know why, but I suddenly thought of the day of reincarnation. Today, however, there wasn’t a young man with eyes full of blame, looking at me. I suddenly felt an emptiness in my heart.
Back in the court’s territory, student Qing Shan and Hei Wu were a lot more at ease. They bought a horse, and we were using the main roads. It was a lot faster. Soon, we arrived in the capital. When we were passing the gate, both student Qing Shan and Hei Wu said that they had something to do, and that I could return to the prime minister’s mansion alone. I was surprised that they weren’t afraid that I would escape, but then I thought that I had nowhere to escape to in the capital. I thus obediently went to the prime minister’s mansion.
The general’s mansion opposite the prime minister’s mansion had been cleared. To historians, the general’s mansion was now only a historical record.
The prime minister’s guards were still the same. When they saw me they were scared.
“Young...Miss, you came back?”
I nodded, “I came back.”
A bodyguard’s legs went soft. He hastened and ran inside. The first person I needed to see, of course, was my father. The only difference I saw was that in the hall, there wasn’t a furious father Song waiting for me. He was in his bedroom, a step from his deathbed. A really thin father Song.
I was a little afraid to call him. I really couldn’t believe that getting old would let someone look like this. Father Song lay on the bed, looking at me dazedly. He closed his eyes for a long time before he sighed and said with a weak voice, “Go away...Go away, you shouldn’t have come back.”
I was originally a cloud, born with nothing and raised with nothing. No father nor mother. I didn’t understand what parents’ love was, but at this moment, I needed to treat this old man well, even if he’d done many bad things. In my eyes, he was just a lonely father.
“Father,” I said. “I was unfilial. The third prince, I’m willing to marry him.”
Father Song’s lips trembled. He was silent for a very long time before gathering all his strength to sit up. Sternly, he said, “Who brought you back?! Even if your father is in a bad situation, I still would not sell my daughter to survive!”
I was surprised. I was still confused when I asked, “Wasn’t it you who let student Qing Shan and Hei Wu bring me back?”
Father Song looked at me casually and then abruptly laughed out loud. “Early this year, those two were killed by the emperor. I’m afraid that the two people who picked you up are imperial guards...”
Father Song shook his head.
“That year, I did everything to bring you and Lu Hai Kong to the north... Now you still have been brought into this conflict. Yun Xiang, father is sorry to you, sorry to your mom, sorry to brother Lu and Lu Hai Kong, and even more sorry to the late emperor.”
Did everything possible to bring me and Lu Hai Kong to the north?
I thought more carefully and realized that everything was strange on the night of the fire. After those two men left, there hadn’t been any news coming from the prime minister’s mansion. Such an important thing as the general’s medal missing, the court failed to send people after us. I and Lu Hai Kong walked like a turtle, and still, there was not one soldier who has caught up with us. Lu Lan had announced his revolt, but the court actually waited five years before doing something...
I didn’t know how much father Song suffered in all these years by the hand of the emperor, but seeing how father Song looked today, I knew that this forty year-old had no more blood to bleed.
I patted him on the back and said, “Father, it’s alright. I’m not so fragile.”
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