Chapter 17: The Mystery of My Father
I didn’t know a person could smile like that.
The expression on his face was obviously a smile, but it was filled with a grief that stirred my feelings to a point where my heart ached. The more beautifully he smiled, the more intensely I felt that pain.
“You guessed right. This is Fang Hua Wood, but not just any variety. Ordinary people know that Fang Hua Wood can nullify tens of thousands of poisons in the world, but they don’t know that there are two types. One type comes after the death of a Fang Hua Beast, and it can expel 100 poisons. The other type comes from the wood left behind in the dirt after a Fang Hua Beast is born and takes on human form. That one can only keep away pests and snakes, but it’s even harder to find.”
I knitted my eyebrows and asked him, “How come?”
He gave a mysterious smile. “It’s the same principle as a baby being born. Preserving the placenta is like burying the wood in the soil.”
“This really is something very valuable, so you should take good care of it.”
I was speechless. In other words, this thing couldn’t dispel any poisons at all.
“You don’t like it?” he looked at me, speaking softly. “But I really wanted to give it to you.” He smiled again, and it felt like I was struck by lightning. I felt a bit unclear.
“Yifu, don’t change the topic.”
He was briefly alarmed before taking a seat on a long bench, calmly looking outside the window. I sprawled by his legs, nestling up as I looked up with the hairpin clutched in my hands. “Tell me about my father.”
His hands slowly stroked my hair, his voice as gentle and soft as a woman’s. But the sound left me cold. “Don’t you already know…?”
Shocked, a sense of unease rose in my heart, and I made a move to leave. But his hand found the back of my head again and pulled me lower and closer.
“You went to the grave at the yellow earth mound, didn’t you…the corpse nestled by its side was your father. Good Shao’er, you’ve forgotten this despite having such a good memory. Do you remember what was written on the sheepskin cloth in his robes? You’ve read it yourself.” His hands unhurriedly stroked my cheeks, reciting it word by word.
“When those days ended, I felt disconsolate and empty over the fact that we couldn’t meet. The happy times of then are now as distant as the divide between Heaven and Man. Early on, a thousand li already existed to keep us separate. I was the one who didn’t treat you well enough back then. Now I’ll use my own life to make it up to you. I just hope that after you return from the grave, you can look after that child. This way, even if I die…I will be content.”
His eyelids drooped, and with every sentence he spoke, the cinnabar mark at the corner of his eye trembled.
I didn’t know what kind of tone he was using to make those few lines sound so cold. I just knew the Fang Hua speaking now made my heart ache, and I quickly grabbed his hand. “Yifu…”
He grew aware of my presence, and turned his head to smile at me. “My memory isn’t very good. But I’ve remembered those words for a lifetime, so I’ll never forget them again.”
A truth like this was crueler than any lie.
It made my head spin…
My father acted wrongly towards Fang Hua out of personal feelings…what kind of entanglements did they get into in his past life?
“Shao’er, I’ve already been through a cycle of rebirth. I’ve forgotten a lot of things from my past life. I can only dimly recall your father’s face and the letter he left by the grave before he died. I went to take care of you, his child and only son.”
Wait a minute, I’m female.
Are you sure your memories didn’t make a mistake somewhere?
Looking at the pleasant smile on his face now, I suddenly fell mute. Straightening up, I buried myself in his embrace. His body was rigid, but he made no sound as he held me. Strands of fragrant scent entered my nose, and a warmth filled my entire body, making me reluctant to part…
Yet my mind was utterly disconcerted with ten thousand tangled thoughts.
There had to be some sort of misunderstanding in the middle of all this. Yet, even if everything had been wrong from the start, I had no desire to pursue the matter any further.
Whatever happened between them was from a former life, and had nothing to do with me. I just wanted to stay with yifu for the rest of my life. Though I thought this way, my heart was even more uneasy, and I buried myself deeper into his chest.
“If you were as spoiled then as you are now, how nice that would be,” A warm and sweet atmosphere surrounded the two of us. Fang Hua lowered his head to smile at me, still stroking my hair…
–opened with a bang.
Willow catkin seeds swirled in the air like thick snowflakes, rushing into the room. Han Zichuan stood right outside the door, carrying some medicinal plants in his hands. He stared at us stupidly, a few flower petals resting on his shoulders.
I blanked out.
Fang Hua didn’t, but he did push me to one side. I fell on the floor…
Curses, did he really need to give me the cold shoulder?
Fang Hua slowly stood up, probably feeling what he’d done was inappropriate, and bent down to help me up. Then he smiled at the other and asked, “Why did you come in?”
Only now did Han Zichuan recover his bearings. He looked at the medicinal plants in his hands with a startled expression and said, “I decided to tidy these up since they’d been drying in the sun for a long time. There’s not much silver left in the house, so I thought I’d find you for some pills to use for exchange outside.”
His eyes were still staring fixedly at the point where our hands met. It was a long while before he raised a head to smile at me. But this smile…
…it made me feel a little uncomfortable, as if he was doing something sneaky behind his back. I lowered my head and peeked at him from a different angle…oh, this floor was really clean with barely any dust on it.
Fang Hua muttered to himself before pulling out something from inside his sleeves and opening up his palm. When I took a look, I saw two or three pocket-sized bottles there.
My sleeves hastily pushed aside the approaching Han Zichuan as I grabbed the bottles and weighed them experimentally in my own hands. “Yifu, you and Han Zichuan rest at home. Leave it to me to sell the pills.”
Fang Hua smiled, straightening up his slender form as his hands vanished back into his sleeves. His silence was equal to a tacit consent.
Nowadays, even he had to admit that years of living in seclusion made it hard for him to find his bearings in the markets. Once, I went strolling with him in the streets. It wasn’t long before a person bumped against him, followed by another and then another. He’d only smile at them after it happened.
When they left, he’d point at their retreating backs and say he was extremely familiar with these people. When I asked him why, he said it was because they were always bumping into him. I had stared into the skies, speechless, before giving him a glance.
When he lowered his head to feel around his clothes, his expression had shifted. You didn’t need brains to figure out that all of his money had been stolen.
Han Zichuan was even more hopeless…
When the house ran out of silver, he would take some medicines to exchange them for other things. At first I wasn’t certain if he’d come back with enough money for us to use, and yet…
He was pretty good at turning a profit, but even better at spending those profits.
As soon as he stepped back inside the house, the imposing vision that greeted us was…
Two or three young boys carrying in colorful rolls of cloth, various cakes and pastries, objects which ranged in size from a single piece of firewood to the size of a carriage, all bought for our house. Not only did we lose the money from selling the medicine, but there were quite a few loan slips in his robes as well.
After rolling my eyes a few times at the two people in my rooms, I placed the precious bottles in my robes and exited the doors.
I straightened my posture and took a long breath, free from the atmosphere in that house. Looking back, I saw their dazed, dumbfounded figures.
If if wasn’t for me…
…how would those two even survive?
[Most up to date translations for this series can be found on volaretranslations.]