Chapter 37 Orginal and most updated translations are from volaretranslations.
While I was lost in thought, Second had already opened the windows. The sunlight was dazzling and there was a refreshing breeze. I drew in a breath, rinsing my mouth out and washing my face before holding onto his shoulder for a lazy stretch. Then I opened the doors and prepared to go out.
“Wear another layer,” Second hurriedly grabbed one of the bedcovers and tried to force it over my shoulders.
“No need, it’s not cold today,” I refused with my hands.
He furrowed his brows without a word to stare at me, eyes slipping down to my chest. I followed his gaze to make my own observations. What was he looking at? My development there was perfectly normal.
“Master shouldn’t be wearing men’s clothes at all,” so saying, he unfolded a set of robes and shook them out three times. He used it to cover me from the back and added, “If outsiders see, it’d be bad.”
I was frustrated.
Even a few extra layers wouldn’t hide the truth of my female gender. Not to mention, everyone in this house was one of my people…
Then I laughed in spite of myself, he sure knew how to learn from others. My finger casually rested beneath his chin and gave it a scratch. “Oh, Second, if you keep worrying over things like this, you’re going to turn into my son.”
His face turned completely red.
Draping my robes loosely over myself, I carelessly kicked open the door. As it turned out, I was greeted by chaos.
What did you call this…
Being bad at being good, but good at being bad?
Second had really made a good guess. Standing in the yard, I lifted my eyes to see a yellow-robed youth standing gracefully at a high point, raising his head to curse loudly.
“It’s not like I’ll kill you, so what are you running away for?” As he said this, he rolled up his sleeves and spat. “I refuse to believe that I can’t poison you.”
I heaved a sigh and accepted the cup of tea from Second, sipping in silence as I watched passively.
There was no need to say it. The little Poison Prince had clashed with the others in the house again. Even after staying by my side all these years, his explosive temper hadn’t changed. Hence, now he was swearing as he ran haphazardly through the rooms.
Yet, the person evading him was very fast. It was hard to see his steps as he leapt on roofs and vaulted over walls, weaving in and out of the bamboo forest as pale pink blur.
Though Sixth’s body was weak, exercising over the years had made his lightness technique better and better. I was full of interest as I tagged along to look, my long robe draped across my shoulders.
A sound floated up from the ground.
I quickly backtracked and looked down, flushed with shame. There was already a man paralyzed on the ground, his scar-covered face turning green with anger. It looked like he’d been poisoned and was now unable to move.
Did I step on him by accident?
I was alarmed, but after seeing who it was, I grew used to it. I inspected my surroundings before using my foot to nudge his clothes. “You’re the only straightforward and honest one, you get tricked every time. That can’t be easy.” Finally, I squatted down, head bowed in submission as I thumped his knee. “Fifth…my poor Fifth, it’s fine if you were born ugly, but I just treated you a bit last night and now you’ve been poisoned on your face again.”
“Master, you’re blocking me,” Second clicked his tongue a few times.
“Oh,” I stopped to wipe my face, reluctantly moving aside a few steps. There was a stone table nearby, with two people seated on low stools. Intrigued, I went over. “What are you guys playing?”
“Xiangqi,” answered a rhythmic, sonorous voice. “We were just waiting for Second to finish serving you…so he could come…help treat Fifth’s poison.”
“Ah, Master woke up really early today. Wait…it’s my turn, stop.” a delicate and pretty young lord held his chess piece in the air, muttering indecisively. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind, but the brown mole by his eye made him especially good-looking. I quietly moved over and took a glance, before pointing at a certain spot, my head turned towards the skies in a careless fashion.
He blinked, and it seemed as if the fog had cleared from his eyes. Glancing at me, he hesitated again before slowly lowering his piece. “I’ll move from here to here.”
“General!” A crystal-clear voice spat out the words. That handsome and spirited man sat in an extremely dignified fashion, smiling gently as he set down a piece without a hint of anger. “This time you lost two pieces of fine silver. Your total is nine losses, which converts with interest into 120 taels.”
When playing with such high stakes, be careful that you’re not ruined.
His mouth stiffened as he collected the money, before turning to speak. “Ah, Little Fifth was poisoned with the Seven Scattering Emotions, so he can’t be touched…but you…” he looked over at Second, who was currently taking Fifth’s pulse, and paused. “Never mind, you’ve already touched him. Well, it’s not like you fear poisons anyways. But poor Fifth will have to endure six more hours of pain now.”
Good grief…did you purposely wait before bringing that up?
He probably saw me spending all that time in Fifth’s room last night and wanted to punish him. As expected, the more beautiful a person was, the more sinister was their heart. I’m afraid no one else in the world could be beautiful and harmless like that person…
My thoughts strayed, and I felt a dull ache in my heart. My hands tightened as I focused on circulating my Qi to compose myself…
There was a hwaaaaa! Astonished, I looked to see someone wave their sleeves, the fabric floating whimsically. The chess pieces scattered off the board and tumbled to the ground.
“No more, I’m not playing, I’ve lost all my pay for the month,” the delicate, pretty young lord with the mole waved his sleeves, digging inside before holding open the fabric for me to see. Exactly as he said…it was completely empty. He probably noticed I was acting strange and got the idea to distract me. With a smile, he spoke. “It was all Master’s fault that I carelessly spent my silver. How many face masks will I have to sell to recover the differences in costs?”
My heart turned warm as I interrupted, “Fourth, didn’t you say last time that one face mask can sell for lots of money?”
“Those are human skin face masks…” he cast a sidelong glance at me. “Now that I’m with you, how could I dare tear off human skins? You can’t get much from selling pig skin face masks.”
Limpid pupils turned to peer at me again before he leaned with a whisper. “Since I’m broke, I’ll eat and drink off you, all right?”
His smile caused the tiny brown mole at the edge of his eyes to raise up. He was exceptionally handsome when he looked at me, making me happy enough to want to hug him in my arms. Unfortunately, it was hard to make a move with everyone else watching.
He struck while the iron was hot and scooted closer, adding in another line. “My bedcovers are a little thin. Originally I wanted to buy new ones with my winnings, but since you lost everything for me, you wouldn’t mind if we share your bed tonight, right?”
“I don’t mind…”
Suddenly, someone kicked my butt from behind, leaving me with a burning pain. My mind blanked out before I regained my bearings.
Wait a sec…
What did he say? Share a bed with me?!
My butt still hurt; it seemed like whoever kicked me went all out. I rubbed it a few times without betraying my feelings, and glanced sideways at the little Prince Mole. “It’s only the ninth month, so how could the nights be chilly? Fourth, this is where you’re wrong. I feed you and raised you and save your life…but you’re still fixated on getting closer in vain hopes of sullying your Master’s purity.”
He wore a shameless smile and stopped talking, though his eyes had the hidden bitterness of someone thwarted in love. Silently, he moved to sit on one side, though he couldn’t resist raising a leg to kick me. Looks like little Prince Mole felt extremely depressed and wronged…
I had the sudden insight that something wasn’t quite right, and uncertainly narrowed my eyes at the chess pieces. “You’re so familiar with those obscure arts of the Five Elements. Something as simple as a board game shouldn’t thwart you, and you even had me lose for you. Were you doing it on purpose…”
He was indignant. “Whatever, I don’t care. Either you come to my room, or I go to yours.” I was dumbfounded, but before I could reply, someone else retorted with a shout.
“Exactly how do you think you’re speaking to Master?”
Before the voice faded, its owner had raised his eyebrows at me. I hastily took the hint and lowered my head to reverently pour him a cup of tea. I then realized that wasn’t right either, but by the time I looked up, he was already lifting the cup to drink.
What was this called…?
I was born to serve others no matter how grand I looked, or how impressive my reputation was, or how I ridiculed my seven talented, unrivaled young princes. Who didn’t know the suffering and distress behind my impressive image, oh my bitter life…ah, I didn’t even get to say it…as a carefree idler of the jianghu, I was just an idle person they could boss around.
Though I’d saved some of their lives and grew familiar with the rest, I only discovered after returning home that it was easy to invite guests, but hard to send them off…all of them started dawdling around. Especially this guy, the oldest. Though he wasn’t the earliest one to enter these doors, he insisted on being called First.
Originally, I thought he had some status in the martial arts circles, at least enough to become their leader. If I hadn’t cured his poison in the past, he might not have let me off so easily. I thought saving him was just as simple as that… As it turned out, he had a good heart, and followed me with his sword for a hundred and eight thousand li to repay his debt of gratitude.
But in order to conceal his identity the past few years, his martial arts skills became less and less outstanding. Fortunately, the so-called Prince Mole, Little Fourth, did a divination and suggested he go into business. Nobody foresaw that the silver would come pouring in afterwards. Nowadays, he paid off all expenses in the house. In short, he came to repay me but ended up getting paid instead.
Although we had lots of people in this house, our lives were pretty satisfactory. I didn’t speak of statutes so we lived rather casually. They all said I couldn’t tell good from bad…
What did they mean by ‘good and bad’?
I really had no idea.
“What are you thinking about?” a certain person behind me raised his foot again and gave me a ruthless kick, though it was lighter than before. “Everyone’s been waiting for you to wake up…it’s time to eat.”
I made a noise of agreement.
He brushed my shoulders as he walked past, the clothes swinging with a steady rhythm. This guy really was worthy of being called First with an imposing manner like that. I couldn’t imitate that air even if I cultivated for 800 years.
My mouth opened and closed as I scuttled after him.
There was a round table with seven seats. After everyone sat down, two were still empty, so I counted First, Second, Fourth, Fifth…yikes, Little Fifth’s complexion still looked terrible, he must have been heavily poisoned.
The dishes arrived, nine plates of delicate meats and vegetables all properly arranged, as well as a big bowl of soup with spots of oil floating on the surface. I stretched my neck to look outside, feeling so hungry…
Were they going to eat or not?
“TIME TO EAT!” I raised my internal energy and roared.
The bamboo leaves shuddered in the absence of wind, revealing the pale pink silhouette intermittently weaving back and forth through the air. He was agile and quick, holding onto a bamboo branch as he looked at us from far away with a wretched expression.
“Come down, come down. Get down here if you have any guts,” a figure dressed in yellow robes stuck his hands on his waist, stomping his feet. He had a crafty gaze in his eyes as he looked up, poisonous powders in his hands.
Just like an affectionate lover.
I almost couldn’t bear disturbing their time together.
“Eat,” the oldest ordered angrily.
Maybe his voice hadn’t been loud enough, but he had always been a man of action. Slowly, he raised the chopsticks in his hands and snapped them without so much as a blink. Then he waved his sleeves in a whoosh of wind.
Those two broken chopstick halves were ruthlessly quick and accurate. They shot powerfully through the bamboo grove and into the wetlands beyond, missing the two people there by millimeters.
No wonder he was a martial arts expert…
There was nothing ambiguous about his actions at all.
In the twinkling of an eye, a wind surged in from outdoors and rattled the table. Very shortly, all seven chairs of the table were filled, and everyone started pouring wine and picking vegetables as if nothing had happened at all. No one minded while I held the heaving form of the pink-robed youth in my arms, his flushed face even brighter than the peach blossoms. Distressed, I fussily used my sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow.
“Come, eat a piece of rabbit, it’ll strengthen your legs,” I encouraged him.
Without fail, he obediently picked up his chopsticks and gave a piece to the little Poison Prince.
All right…now the Poison Prince was angry enough to have fire flaming from his eyes.
I’ve got to say…if he can’t catch up to you, then that’s that. To actually use these chopsticks to mock him wasn’t just being heartless and unfair, it was dragging me into danger as well.
I lowered my head to blow on the soup, cooling it. Then I drank it with gusto, not daring to stray my vision a bit. Suddenly, little Fourth Prince Mole raised his head, as if listening in rapt attention. His words came out of the blue. “Master, someone’s come to visit.”
I spat out a mouthful of soup, hastily wiping my mouth with my sleeves.
Curses, who came to call during mealtimes? This was obviously someone who wanted a free meal. I quickly stood up to look, though I couldn’t see anything: only a small, thin sound reached my ears, like wind or something else altogether. Immediately, the sound grew louder, creating a noisy ruckus in the bamboo woods beyond. The green leaves rustled against each other, accompanied by the faint sound of bells and flutes.
I took the time to collect myself. Someone had broken through the spell formation Little Fourth set outside our borders and entered our territory.
-o- Orginal and most updated translations are from volaretranslations.
 chaos (????) ?jifei goutiao, the Chinese idiom literally means “flying chickens and jumping dogs.”
 a hundred and eight thousand li (?????) ?shiwanbaqian li, not necessarily a literal distance, more of an idiom meaning a really, really long way.
 oil floating on the surface (???????) ?shangmian piaozhe youhua er, oil is an important part of Chinese cooking that adds flavor and taste; having a soup with oil in it also indicated a certain level of household wealth.