Chapter 16: Confronting Yifu
Han Zichuan really was a good man who didn’t fight with a woman.
No matter how I made fun of him, he still kept his eyes downcast. When I moved closer to take a look, he actually turned his face away to speak. “You…keep your distance from me.”
“Che, it’s not like I’ll miss out on much,” I gave him a side glance, before stooping over to pull up a patch of grass. “Teasing you is a lot less fun than yifu.”
He seemed stunned. I brushed aside my sleeves and messily gathered up my damp hair, holding it in place with my red wood hairpin.
“Fang Hua really didn’t raise you as a girl these past ten years?” Han Zichuan suddenly blurted out.
The sunlight just happened to get in my eyes then, and I squinted when I turned to look at him. He stared back blankly, as if dazed. After a long time, he finally tore his eyes from my face to rest above my head.
“Your yifu is a Fang Hua Beast…right?”
Not wanting to reply, my lips pursed as I glanced at him and resumed walking away.
He followed behind me without a word. The two of us walked softly, one in front of the other, the silence occasionally broken by the sound of falling leaves. When his voice rose again, it was as bright and clear as jade. “Fang Hua withdrew from the world to live here. He’s used to living quietly by himself, yet he took you in as his adopted son.”
The wind blew gently, carrying along the sweet, indistinct fragrance of flowers and a unique scent that smelled like medicine to settle in my very bones.
“He treats you extremely well…” Han Zichuan’s voice paused. “He even gifted you with a Fang Hua Wood.”
This particular sentence piqued my interest and I stopped, gazing at him out of the corner of my eyes. He was fixated on the hairpin in my hair, standing still beneath the willow trees as if turned to stone. There was still a soft, mild smile on his face, and an excited, if hesitant, expression in his eyes.
His current face and bearing felt a little odd to me, but I couldn’t tell where it was wrong. I hesitated, then touched the hairpin, only to see his eyes light up. My heart started to pound, and I withdrew my hand. “…this hairpin was made from Fang Hua Wood? Is it very important to my yifu?”
He replied, “You can ask him.”
“You’ve seen Fang Hua Wood before, right?” I narrowed my eyes at him, trying to guess from his expression. “I wear this hairpin everyday, so why tell me this now?”
His face looked as if it wanted to smile, but the smile was a pained one. “Fang Hua Wood is an exceedingly precious thing that can nullify hundreds of poisons. There are always people searching for it, and I’ve had the luck to seen one in the past as well. The one you have now is a little different. I’m only guessing so I can’t be sure, but the changes in your body today are probably related to this wood. That’s what finally convinced me.”
My heart stopped.
He just clasped his hands. “I’m a bit tired, so I’m going to go on ahead.” He seemed as if he was troubled about something.
Che, this person…what’s his problem?
His moods shifted quicker than a person turning the pages of a book. Before long, he’d already disappeared without a trace. I stood there looking around for a bit before leisurely walking back to the house. I closed the door, pulled out my hairpin, and examined it closely in my hand.
My head bent down as I got even closer to take a sniff, but it wasn’t the same fragrance I’d smelled before.
Was this really Fang Hua Wood? It didn’t look much different from regular mahogany wood. It felt warm as I grasped it in my hands…
From the expression on Han Zichuan’s face just now, it was easy to tell that he had been hiding something. Aish…what could it be? I sucked in another breath and placed the hairpin on a low table. Absentmindedly, my eyes caught sight of my bronze mirror and my heart stopped. I paused for a second and slowly walked over, a feeling of impatience in my heart.
To tell you the truth, it’d been a while. Besides knowing my skin was now a little whiter, I had no idea what I looked like. The reflection given off by the bronze mirror was blurry and pale yellow, but as I came closer, the imager grew clearer.
There stood a figure dressed in men’s robes. Despite this, the clothing couldn’t hide the lithe and graceful curves of a woman’s figure, and the effect it gave off was a mixture of a manly, unrestrained spirit and a delicate, feminine air. It was an irresistibly dreamlike vision that made it hard for one to look away.
My forehead wrinkled.
Compared to before, I couldn’t even measure how much better looking I was now…
Suddenly, a fine voice carried over from behind me.
“Did you get rid of the poison?” An extra voice rose out of the air, startling me.
Another figure appeared in the mirror to stand behind me. A cinnabar mark below the eye framed a pair of beautiful pupils, filled with feelings of tenderness.
“When did yifu open the door and come in? I didn’t even realize.”
“Not so long ago. I kept thinking of you, so I came to take a look.” He grasped my shoulder and turned me around, smiling as I faced him.
His eyes were full of warmth.
We were so close that his breath tickled my cheeks, and the sensation made me a little restless. My heart started beating wildly, and I unconsciously took a few steps back, hand pressing against a low table until it brushed against something and knocked it to the ground with a noise.
“Yikes…” I lowered my head.
What fell down?
But he used his hands to raise my head, gently stroking my forehead as he peered at my face. I blinked. When he spoke again, it was in a tone that had never sounded so genial before, warmer than the spring breeze. “You look just like your father…”
What was going on now?
Fang Hua knew my family, could it be that…
“You’re familiar with my father?”
“That’s a thing of the past…” he smiled gently, though it seemed a little anguished, his eyes still fixed on me. “But I only remember him faintly now.”
He didn’t say anything else, only stroking the hair that covered my face as he fell into silence. On the other hand, my heart kept on thumping like a drum. So he really hadn’t picked me up by coincidence to raise me…that meeting at the dilapidated temple was done with conscious effort. In other words, he came looking for someone on purpose that day?
The human skeleton on the yellow soil tomb…and the cloth I found in its robes…
I suddenly opened my eyes wide, backing up a giant step until I hit the wooden table again. My eyebrows furrowed as a sharp pain hit my waist, bitter beyond words.
He pulled my hand with only a little bit of strength, and I tumbled into his arms. He smiled, and started petting my head like he would a child’s.
“It’s been so many years, but you’re still just like him. You can’t be so muddleheaded. In the future, you’ll have to start a family and make a living.”
Start a family and make a living?
Was that a joke…
Startled, I blurted out, “I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” the corners of his lips drew up.
Because, who ever heard of a woman starting a family and making a living, or picking a wife to go with it?
“Think it over carefully, there’s no rush.” He stroked my hair comfortingly, raising his slender eyebrows. The look in his eyes seemed to say, take your time to make up an excuse…there’s no rush…
I lowered my head and began. “It’s because–” my eyes darted in quick circles, “–I want to stay with Fang Hua for the rest of my life.”
As soon as I said it, I felt like biting off my tongue. I docilely lowered my head and stole a peek at him. This was my first time calling him Fang Hua.
He smiled, his entire face filled with gentleness. He didn’t seem angry that I called him by his name, but rather comfortable about the whole thing. The cinnabar mark by his eye resembled a teardrop, and he heaved a low sigh into the air. “Who can really stay by whose side…?”
I was surprised.
“After a few years, Shao’er will become an adult. You are different from me, and can’t always stay by my side.” Even though he sighed with feeling as he said these words, his next action was to embrace me. I closed my eyes and relaxed in the warm hug, surrounded by soft cloth as a fragrant aroma assaulted my nostrils. It was a sudden scent that made me look up at Fang Hua in a half-trance. Time really passed quickly…
Even though he sighed with feeling as he said these words, his next action was to embrace me. I closed my eyes and relaxed in the warm hug, surrounded by soft cloth as a fragrant aroma assaulted my nostrils. It was a sudden scent that made me look up at Fang Hua in a half-trance. Time really passed quickly…
When I first came here, I was as tall as his knees, but now my height reached his shoulders. Still, he looked as same as the first time I laid eyes on him.
— [Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]
It really was a pity to simply call him yifu.
The wind blew gently, rustling the paper windows. Faintly, one could hear the sound of Han Zichuan walking around outside, preparing to bring in the plants that had been left to dry in the sun. Fang Hua gave an exclamation of surprise, staring at a point before releasing me and bending down. “Although something like this can’t be broken…”
He picked up the hairpin that had fallen to the floor and blew on it. “When you drop this next time, make sure I don’t see it.” So speaking, he drew up his sleeves and carefully wiped it with the cloth. Then taking it in his hands, he prepared to do my hair for me.
I gave a start as I stared at the fiery red hairpin, thinking back to the beginning. I grabbed him by the hand and asked, “Yifu, is there anything you’re not telling me?”
He stood stunned. “I secretly drank half a jug of wine today.”
“No? I dug up the cabbage you planted in exchange for a chrysanthemum plant because I thought that tasted better.”
Forgive me, but I’m mad.
“You know this isn’t what I’m asking about,” My eyes narrowed as they moved to the red wood hairpin. “A hairpin made from Fang Hua Wood, and my father…everything about all these things, I need to understand.”
He suddenly gave me a cold, melancholy smile.
-o- [Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]clasped his hands (????) ?gong le gong shou, a motion where both hands are brought before the chest, one in the shape of a fist, the other clasped around it. A traditional way of greeting each other or saying farewells, usually accompanied by a bow. cinnabar mark below the eye (??????) ?yan jiao xia de zhu sha, Chinese is ambiguous, but later chapters confirm he has one mark/mole under his left eye. start a family and get a job (????) ?cheng jia li ye, is exactly what the English means, though in this case it’s heavily implied from a male perspective. A man should settle down with his own family and start his career so he can support them. It also implies he should get a wife as well. cabbage (??) ?bai cai, this would be Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage, white at the base and framed with light green leaves. Great in hotpots, by the way.