Chapter 56 Original and most updated translations are from volaretranslations.
Fang Hua’s body grew worse and worse by the day.
He was nothing like the peerless Fang Hua of before because his wasting illness had completely eaten away at his body. He refused to look into the mirror, but remained huddled up in his room, coughing. His days of stepping out for exercise grew fewer and fewer, and he got into the habit of staring at First’s back instead, spacing out.
I knew he was recalling his past self.
…he was once an elegant, free-and-easy young gentleman.
I couldn’t bear to see his expression every time he stared after First. The gloominess in the set of his eyebrows as he thought of former times, the eyelashes that covered eyes that grew darker and darker as time wore on…only pained me with each passing day. First was an intelligent man and must have noticed as well. One day he approached me to respectfully take his leave, mildly commenting that it’d been some time since they’d left the house and it’d be good to go back and take care of some matters. I didn’t urge him to stay, but he seemed to have expected that, and smiled as he took away the rest of the princes as well. Only Second stayed to help me with his medical knowledge.
Third and Sixth were obviously displeased, one yelling all the way while the other clutched at my robes for ages until he was pulled away. With fewer people in the house, the stillness of the place returned. The rooms were empty, so I had more time to take care of Fang Hua, devoting all my attention to look after him. He treated me both coldly and with biting sarcasm until in the end, he stopped acknowledging me altogether.
The tea wasn’t hot enough, it didn’t taste as good as the one Han Zichuan made, his robes were too warm, the fabric was too thick and hurt when it rubbed against his skin.
He should know. When it was just the three of us living in this house, I took care of his food and clothing without any input from him. Han Zichuan only delivered these things to him on occasion. He could fuss and complain and ignore me. It didn’t matter how he treated me…as long as he was well…
But even like this, he grew weaker every day, and the teardrop shaped mole by his eye had turned as dark as dark could be. In the face of everything happening before me, I could only feel frustration and a growing sense of trepidation. I’d read through all the books in the house multiple times. Besides that one piece of silk, there were no other records of the Fang Hua Beast, but even that silk didn’t elaborate enough on the details…
Was there no choice but to watch him die? Who could tell me how to save his life?
I leaned against the door as my body slowly sank to the floor, crying soundless sobs. I’d never felt so useless as if…I was drowning in grief. A pair of hands settled on my shoulders. Surprised, I hurriedly wiped my eyes with my sleeves.
“Is it yifu? If there’s anything you want…I’ll prepare it immediately.”
“Master?” Second bent down to peer at me anxiously. I pulled my lips into a smile–a very forced smile. How could I forget that Fang Hua was too sick to leave his bed now?
“How is Fang Hua doing?”
Second slowly shook his head as he looked at me. He was about to speak, but visibly hesitated. It was a long while before he spoke again. “Master, I think it’s best if you go see Lord Hua.”
“It couldn’t be…” My eyes grew wide as I unintentionally betrayed my panic.
“He said…” Second loosened his hold on me, not daring to meet my eyes. His voice was very soft. “…he wanted to see you.”
There was a roaring in my head as I stiffly pushed him aside, rushing past in a flurry of windswept robes to push open a door…and slow my stops. A few days had passed, but he was still lying on the bed in the exact same position, unmoving. I walked over, parting the brocade covers to grasp his hand. Fang Hua’s complexion was terrible, but he managed a smile. It was already late autumn and very cold. His fingers weren’t warm at all… I was terrified that he was going to leave me like this.
Yifu laid on his side on the bed beneath the brocade covers. Stray silver strands peeked out to spill across his pillow, still like flowing streams of water. Only now his black hairs were interminably mixed with gray.
“Fang Hua, is there anything you’d like to eat? What about red lotuses…or, did you know? The back garden gave bloom to a lot of nameless flowers, right in the place where you always like to go. I can pick some for you…” I choked out.
This time, it seemed that I’d woken him up. He turned over, fully revealing the weariness on his brows. The bedcovers outlined his sickly silhouette, thin and weak, the sight a sharp sword that pierced straight through my chest and twisted to give me unimaginable pain. I felt sick at heart. Something salty and bitter flowed down past my throat, and my eyes felt unusually warm.
“What’s wrong with you now…?” a weak voice floated over, carrying with it a trace of laughter. “I’m not dead yet.”
In a daze, I looked at him and his smile, so filled with warmth. It had been a long time since he smiled at me. From outside the window, the wind carried in an intoxicating fragrance that carried past a rain of sweet-scented osmanthus. Occasionally a golden petal would drift to land by his pillow. He closed his eyes and sniffed it, before speaking quietly, “Who does that person belong to…?”
I drew closer to the bed, sitting on the floor as I asked, “The wind was too loud…I didn’t hear clearly. Yifu, say that again.”
“Wine…I won’t be able to drink your wine again when the flowers bloom next year. When you weren’t here, I tried to brew some myself…but it wasn’t even one-tenth as good as yours. Next time when you brew wine, take on this name.”
I gave him a teary smile. “You winebibber.”
He smiled lightly in return. “Shao’er, it’s been hard for you, taking care of an old man like me.”
In truth, you aren’t old at all…your face is just a little bit thin. Fang Hua, you’re still as elegant as the first time I saw you, with looks surpassing that of mere mortals. You’re the most beautiful man I’ve met.
“Don’t say that. Your body’s weak, you should sleep for a bit,” I gently caressed his face, but my fingers trembled involuntarily.
“There are some things I want to say,” he struggled to get up, but fell back from lack of strength, breathing heavily. “I must trouble you…to help me up.”
I set aside a back cushion before helping him up to lean against it so he was half-reclining on the bed. He wasn’t supple as before, and his fluttering robes hung off his body. His bones jabbed at me, making my chest tighten in pain as depression filled me again. He touched my hand lightly, looking at me in silence during the entire process. Fang Hua was extremely focused.
“The moment I saw them, I knew they’d take good care of you. Their types…they’re all like gentlemen from good families.”
I only want you. I only want to spend time by your side forever.
“I remember you liked to eat fresh, hot mantou,” he remained smiling, but his speech grew slower, as if he was almost too tired to keep his eyes open. “Shao’er, what do you want to eat tomorrow morning…when I’m better, I’ll make it for you.”
“You’ll get better…you definitely will.”
The silk cloth said, ‘If adult Beasts can maintain a heart of clarity in the world of mortals, they can extend their longevity and cultivate to become Immortals. Those who are moved by sentiment end up as grassy weeds, withering year by year, bathing in a sea of fire until they return to the cycle of reincarnation.’ But seeing him lying on the bed now, with weak breaths and his dark black mole…
“Fang Hua, you’re going to be all right.”
He shut his eyes, almost gasping for breath. “After I die. Help me…deliver my body to Han Zichuan.”
I grabbed a cloth to help wipe away his sweat. My heart felt as if it had been stabbed. Fang Hua, where exactly have you placed me? How could you bear to hurt me to this point? I touched his wrinkled brow, seeing his determined expression, and felt myself coming to terms with the helplessness in my heart.
“I’ll find him for you right now,” I managed to choke out.
You really loved him this much. Then I’ll use his blood to save you.
Yet a hand withdrew from the covers to grab me firmly. His skin was dull and dark, the fingers emaciated…as if he was using all his strength to hold me tight. His eyebrows knitted closer together as he stared at me, as if imploring me for something. There were traces of tears by his eyes as his trembling lips spat out two words. But my vision had long grown too blurry to see what he was saying.
Fang Hua, I’ll use everything I have. Even if my opponent is the emperor himself…I’ll drag him off his throne and bring him here.
Within the courtyard, there was only the low, quiet call of cicadas. Inside the main hall, my expression was slightly imposing as I hugged a bunch of items to my chest.
“Master, where are you going?”
“Of course I’m packing up and preparing to leave.”
“There’s something I don’t know if I should say,” Second walked quickly to catch me by the hand, looking at me with a determined expression. Yet his voice was soft, as if afraid he’d startle me. “In the texts left to me by my ancestors, I came across records of the Fang Hua Beast. Lord Hua has lost a lot of blood and been heavily hurt by sentiment. His mole has already turned black, so it’s unlikely that he’ll live much longer.”
“I already knew all this a long time ago.”
Second lowered his voice even further. “You should…spend more time with him.”
“You want me to stay and watch him die?” I looked at him in silence. He seemed to find it awkward to reply, and only looked at me without replying.
Did he really want me to do nothing and just foolishly watch on…? Could I only keep vigil over the person I loved most until he slipped away into eternal sleep in my arms?
Right now, his every ten days was equal to one year in human terms. I’d already watch him get older and older. Our time together was limited, and yet the person he couldn’t stop thinking about wasn’t me. Was I supposed to watch as he turned back into dead wood…? That was too cruel. A Fang Hua Beast injured by sentiment could only be cured by sentiment, then nourished by blood. That’s right, blood…
“Second, your ancestors all had miraculous skills in the art of medicine. Your blood can cure a hundred poisons, right…?”
He smiled, but his eyes looked hurt as he knelt on one knee. “You’ve said it too, it can cure a hundred poisons. My life was saved by Master, so if Master has any instructions, Second’s willing to die 10,000 times before I refuse…but Lord Hua isn’t a human, and neither is he poisoned.”
I’ve become muddle-headed.
“But you’re the disciple of the Pill King, so you can definitely think of a way to preserve Fang Hua’s life. So…” I smiled slowly as I looked towards him. “Before I come back…please keep him alive.”
Second remained kneeling for a while, completely flabbergasted until he looked at me in disbelief. “Is Master preparing to go to the palace?!”
I stood bolt upright but didn’t reply, my eyes drifting to a distant point. There was a lush bamboo grove there that stretched up to a slope, where a mess of interlocking branches blocked the only path back to the outside world. Fang Hua had once told me there was no way off this mountain before going behind my back to construct that awkward mass of branches. Now that I thought of it, I felt both aggrieved yet warm inside.
The Fang Hua Beast is a primarily male animal with a peaceful disposition. It prefers to live alone…
I barely held back a laugh as my hands curled around the hem of my jacket. My mouth broke into a grin briefly despite myself, but the feelings accompanying it were bitter. Fang Hua, who should’ve loved solitude, used a thousand different ways to keep me by his side. Was it that people on the verge of getting older grew more attached to trivial matters in the mortal world?
Maybe he was reluctant to part with this earth.
He wanted to find a companion, but I wasn’t the person he was expecting and only made his illness worse.
“Master, your face doesn’t look so good. Should I take your pulse for you?” Second asked cautiously.
My thoughts were cast into insignificance as I stooped to help him off, dusting off his robes. “Second, you have to remember…Fang Hua likes the red lotus flowers in the back pond best. Just tasting a bit will cheer him up. His tea needs to be steeped in scalding hot water. He might not talk for an entire day, but tell him about our adventures on the jianghu often. He’s very willing to listen even if he looks impatient…that’s the kind of stubborn person he is.” I gathered him into my arms, resting my head against his shoulder as my body quivered. Tears kept pouring from my eyes without stopping.
“Second, take good care of Fang Hua for me.”
Who knew when we’d meet again after we parted? I didn’t disturb Fang Hua, but left through the back door with my satchel on my back, escaping through the passageway in the bamboo grove to the nearest town. Though the town was out of the way and far from the palace, the streets were still full of joy. I walked alone through the main road and couldn’t help but feel that I didn’t fit in.
I stopped by a teahouse to set my bag down and take a seat.
“Waiter, a pot of tea.”
“Right away, customer.”
That little fellow was clever and fast, cleaning the table in a single wipe before pouring me a cup. The table next to me had guests in the throes of a lively discussion. Their voices were loud enough for the entire teahouse to hear.
“Did you hear? The emperor’s going to marry the general’s youngest daughter in five days.”
I gave a jerk.
“Of course. General Qi has hold over military might and he’s one of the dynasty’s founding members. This daughter of his is bright and beautiful as well. They said the court will send out people to pick her up from home in a few days.”
“Pah! You say she’s bright and beautiful, but it’s not as if you’ve ever seen her. Could a general’s daughter be compared to other ladies? She probably even knows how to use a sword or spear.”
I drank a mouthful of incomparably bitter tea, falling silent as the noisy and atmosphere of the teahouse seemed to make me sick to my stomach. Throwing aside some silver, I turned away to leave. There was no time to visit the other princes on the way, so I stood at the edge of the marketplace to look around. Opposite me was a money exchange center with a giant sign imprinted with bold black words: First Family Money Exchange. In the lower left corner was a glittering yellow character that read “Xiao”, or “carefree.”
I made my way inside.
A clerk with good eyes approached me but paused when he saw me in men’s clothes. Uncertain whether to refer to me as a lady or a gentleman, he could only lower his eyes and say with a laugh, “This customer is rather unfamiliar, are you here to withdraw silver?”
I didn’t say much, but pulled out a certain jade pendant from the depths of my sleeves and handed it over. At first, he didn’t seem to understand. But when he flipped over the jade to examine it more closely, his entire expression changed, and he hastily carried it into the back rooms. Not long after, the shopkeeper of the exchange emerged, a man around 40 years old who seemed honest, kind, and obedient. His shaking hands personally returned the jade pendant before he used his sleeves to wipe the sweat from his brow. With a reverent manner, he spoke.
“I didn’t know that the owner came to call, it is our offense.”
I nodded as I took a piece of paper from his partner, drawing up my sleeve to write a figure on it.
“Is the Carefree Idler, that respected elder, still doing well?”
I raised an eyebrow and spat out two words: “Not bad.”
Stopping my brush, I held the jade pendant in my hands before groping about for some cinnabar to dip it in. Then I pressed one side to the paper to make an impression: a miniature character for “Xiao”, or “carefree.”
“Get this much paper money for me.”
He agreed immediately and carefully took the paper in his hands. I called him to stop, and took a certain letter out from my chest.
“That’s right…give this to Manager First as well.”
He accepted it with fear and trepidation. “Seventh prince, take care.”
I smiled. There was no time to waste further words with them, so I took my leave and left.
After I stepped out the doors, it only took a few steps for me to discover that First had opened up quite a few branches of shops and money exchanges in this town…he probably reckoned that I wouldn’t be used to living away from them and took pains to make sure I was taken care of.
It made my heart a little sad.
But after that melancholy, came pride.
I used the silver stored in my robes on traveling expenses to buy a horse and galloped towards the direction of the palace. This time, I kept in mind all the words those princes had told me back at the house. After the incident at the cliff, the emperor took my unconscious form back to the palace. All the clues left by the fighting had been destroyed afterwards. Yet after I’d been snatched out of the palace, the emperor hadn’t sent anyone to find me. The news was sealed within the palace and no one dared to bring it up again.
It was as if the missing person wasn’t the soon-to-be highest ranking imperial concubine, but an ordinary court lady. All this was already very strange, but but I never expected that the day I left the dying Fang Hua I’d hear news of Han Zichuan’s wedding. Wasn’t his match the daughter of the one person he was trying to resist? Wasn’t the head of that family one of the chief potential culprits in the cliff incident?
I found myself sinking into a dense fog, unable to find the way out.
Everything could only be answered after I made my way into the palace.
 who does that person belong to (伊人归谁归) – yiren gui shei gui, the most interesting part of this sentence is yiren, or “that person”. Used with these characters, it refers specifically to a woman. 😉
 sentiment (情) －this is something to describe the entire realm of human feelings/emotions/attachments. Cultivators shouldn’t be attracted to things in the mundane world if they want to ascend to immortality, those who are can be said to be lost/entrapped by qing, or sentiment, whether it be bonds between people or unresolved feelings in their hearts. More or less.
 money exchange center (钱庄) － qianzhuang, a sort of old-fashioned bank.
 First (壹) – yi, this character is the same as the one used by First, one of Shao’er’s princes.