Edited by Kiseki
The night was cold while the blanket was warm.
I was woken by Lu Hai Kong’s kicks. Seeing the one beside me struggling, I sighed. “Here we go again.”
After escaping the capital, every night, Lu Hai Kong hadn’t slept well. While sleeping, he would begin kicking. I pressed his legs. Only after he stopped struggling would I loosen my hand.
Moonlight shone through the window into the inn. In the moonlight, I saw that Lu Hai Kong’s forehead was full of cold sweat. This little kid; during daytime, he would pretend to be strong, but the night would betray him. No matter how strong he pretended to be, he couldn’t fight his own nightmares.
In order to sleep for the rest of the night, I held him in my arms. Stroking his head, I repeated into his ears, like a lullaby, “It’s alright now. It’s alright now.”
When I woke up the following morning, Lu Hai Kong was in my arms, already staring at me.
I yawned. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
He answered, “You didn’t sleep well last night. During the day, I wanted you to sleep a little longer.”
I opened my mouth. No matter what I did, the half yawn left wouldn’t come out. This child was more thorough than anyone.
Going on the street to buy breakfast, I stood next to a stall and said, “Give me four big buns.”
“Alright, that’s two pennies.”
The vendor wrapped the buns and handed them to me. I took out the money. There was only one tael and three pennies left.
My savings! My money! All the money had flown away on this road to the north. My heart hurt so much that I wanted to give it a few kicks.
I had actually abandoned the comfortable life at the prime minister’s mansion? I had actually abandoned it like that! I really wanted to slap myself. Little Xiang, for what purpose did you do it, ah? Not being selfish? Sacrificing for love? Is that really you? Why learn to be noble? Why be a savior? Are those things that you should do? Are they? Are they? Are they?
I was in my own world, only stepping out of it when the vendor said, “Miss, two pennies, please.”
I sighed and took out two pennies, exchanging it for four buns. I looked down, right into Lu Hai Kong’s gaze. Seeing his right eye, I felt regret. I helplessly smiled in front of him. I was just too good-hearted.
While walking and eating buns with Lu Hai Kong, I asked, “Brat, we’re almost at the north. How much more do we have to go northward?”
Hearing my question, Lu Hai Kong was shocked again.
“Yun Xiang… you really didn’t know anything and just came with me?” I pinched the buns and answered, “En, yes ah. I’m very simple and don’t understand things. I don’t know anything. It must be hard for you. On the way here, the scenery wasn’t bad. After I deliver you, I’ll just leave.” (she’s being sarcastic here)
Lu Hai Kong was still young. Hearing me say those words, he panicked. He grabbed my hand. Tightly holding it, he stared at me. His lips trembled, but not a word came out of his mouth. It looked the same as the night he was tightly stuck in the doghole.
I didn’t know what kind of role I played in Lu Hai Kong’s heart at the moment, but I knew that this kid’s heart wasn’t as calm as it had appeared all the way here. Just the right place, the right words would defeat his strong and calm appearance.
My angry words were too much for him.
I looked at him for a moment before touching his head with my other hand. “I was joking with you. The north is too far, I would be too afraid to go back alone.”
His tight grip on my hand loosened a bit. Suppressing the panic in his heart, he said, “I don’t hold anything against Yun Xiang. I just think that Yun Xiang should know, I…”
He didn’t know how to explain further. His ears drooped. With a face of surrender, he nestled against my body. Sticking his hand out, he held me as tightly as though he was holding driftwood.
“In the future, l’ll surely go back home with Yun Xiang. Then Yun Xiang will not be afraid anymore.”
Silly kid. Going from Heaven, to the Nether world, then coming to the human world, I had never been afraid. Would I be afraid of such a little journey? He was too easy to deceive.
I separated Lu Hai Kong from myself. “After you’ve eaten the buns, don’t rub your body on me. With your mouth full of oil, you’ll make my clothes dirty. The north is cold, and clothes are expensive. Where would we get one to change into, ah?”
The little hands that were holding me stiffened slightly. He buried his face deeper in my clothes. In a muffled voice, he said. “You will… Yun Xiang, you will lead a life without worries and not need to wander. It’ll happen very soon.”
Hearing him say those words, I became sentimental….originally, I was living such life!
Three days later, we arrived in the biggest city on the frontier, Lu Liang City. This was also one of the largest military base in the country.
After entering the city, I was about to go look for an inn when Lu Hai Kong grabbed my hand. Along the way, he had been asking people for directions. We arrived at the mansion of the protector of this city.
I held him tightly. “Don’t tell me that you walked all the way here to surrender! Do you think you can enter one of the court’s institutions? You don’t want to live anymore?!”
Lu Hai Kong answered me helplessly, “Yun Xiang, my uncle lives here.”
So he came to seek help from his relatives. This relative of his didn’t seem simple as the sole protector of the north, guarding all these places. The whole north-west must be under his care.
I was pleased to see that our future days were taken care of. With my head straight in the air, I walked to the door. Even Lu Hai Kong couldn’t pull me back. He began to dig for something in his chest. I stood in front of the door with the posture of the prime minister’s miss and called, “Hey, ask your protector to come out.”
The two guards swept their eyes over me. They stood there, ignoring me, like two statues.
I raised an eyebrow. Lu Hai Kong’s uncle had some skills; he had trained the two guards very well.
I was about to add something when Lu Hai Kong pulled at me. He took out a green cloth and ripped it. An instant flash of gold made my eyes hurt. I only heard Lu Hai Kong’s calm and steady voice say, “The medal of the general from the marshal military forces is here. Seeing the medal is the same as seeing the person. I want to see your protector.”
I turned to look at Lu Hai Kong. Brat, every night you sleep with your hand clutching your chest. So this was the reason! He….he hadn’t told me that he was hiding something so important. Was it because he was afraid that I had become crazy after being poor? Was he afraid that I would go pawn this gold medal?
I had to say that even at such a young age, he was good at looking through people.
The faces of the guards changed colors when they saw the medal. The two exchanged a glance. One of them went inside the mansion while the other bowed. “This subordinate greets the general. Forgive me for my negligence.”
“Is the protector home?”
“We’ve already informed him.”
I was still pondering how much longer we would need to stand there when I heard quick footsteps coming.
Hearing his voice, he must have been practicing. The guard that went inside came back out. Behind him was a man wearing armor. He looked handsome, kind of like looking at Lu Hai Kong’s father when he was young. This must be Lu Hai Kong’s uncle. In his hand, he was still holding a sword and wearing a helmet. His sweat was mixed with dust. He looked like he had been training and rushed out here.
Lu Hai Kong stared at the man wearing armor. His eyes were heavy, full of emotions.
I didn’t understand. Since he had come to seek refuge at his relatives, why hadn’t they rushed forward and given each other a big hug upon seeing each other?
It was silent for a very long time. Finally, the uncle broke the silence. “Lu Hai Kong.”
He had a deep voice that men in the capital didn’t have, mature and not hoarse. It brought a manly feeling, making my eyes and ears bright.
Lu Hai Kong only said this word.
I felt my sleeves tighten. I looked down to see that Lu Hai Kong was tightly grabbing my sleeves. He was so nervous that he didn’t dare to move.
I thought carefully. The news about us fleeing the capital must’ve already reached the north. The court hadn’t searched for us openly, but secretly, they must have been searching for us. Especially in this northern frontier. The court would’ve guessed that Lu Hai Kong would come here. Lu Hai Kong must’ve known his situation, but he couldn’t not come, because this was the only place he could go.
And now he was seeing this uncle whom he had never seen before. He knew nothing about the other party, but he had to put his fate in this man’s hand. Uncle only had to say ‘catch them,’ and we would only be able to wait patiently to be sent back to the capital.
Lu Hai Kong was taking a gamble between life and death. He had bet his life in the hope that he would live. The inexplicable and uncomfortable feeling was in my heart again. The decision about life and death, seeking the hope for life, he put all his chance and courage on the table to aim for a tomorrow. I held his clenched fists. Together we silently looked at the men in front of us.
“Heart in the sea, eyes in the sky. Brother gave you a good name.”
- 陆海空 ( lù hǎi kōng): 海=sea 空=sky
Uncle laughed and stepped down the stairs. With one hand, he pulled Lu Hai Kong into his embrace. Uncle patted Lu Hai Kong’s back fiercely back.
“Good boy, you must be tired from the long journey.”
Those two pats seemed like two slaps for my heart. I was afraid that Lu Hai Kong would vomit blood after those strong pats.
I looked at the thin Lu Hai Kong. His eyes were red, full of tears, but he didn’t let them fall down. He gritted his teeth and said, “Not tired… It’s just that father… father and mother, they…”
Uncle touched his head. “I know.”
Lu Hai Kong closed his eyes. The tears in his eyes finally streamed down his cheeks.
This was the first time that he had cried in front of someone since the incident.
At this time, my heart felt a sense of loss. It was not because he had found someone else to rely on, but because I suddenly understood that after father Song had set the general and his whole family on fire, Lu Hai Kong could never treat Song Yun Xiang the same as when they were little. He could never Song Yun Xiang as sincerely as before.
Even if there was dependence, respect, or even love, there was also a gap.
This child was strong, but he was also fragile, intelligent and extremely sensitive.