The Frightening Bai Fu Rong
That afternoon, Xuan Tian Ming sent out two hidden guards along with a small group of soldiers to escort the bearded man and the other person along with Duan Mu Cong’s corpse back to Song Zhou.
Feng Yu Heng went to check on Fu Ya and found that she was still unconscious; however, there was nothing too seriously wrong with her. Her body was just weakened by excessive fatigue and fear. She would be better after a period of rest. She just did not know if the Fu family couple was still alive. This matter was the reason she felt guilty toward them. When it came time for her to enter Song Zhou, she would definitely search carefully.
Of the three northern provinces, Guan Zhou was the entrance, Song Zhou was the heart, and Jiang Zhou was closest to Qian Zhou while also being the true border. Taking Guan Zhou was easy. To get into Song Zhou, however, would not be as easy.
After dinner, Xuan Tian Ming gathered the troops and began to discuss the coming operation. Feng Yu Heng also participated. In regards to imperial daughter Ji An taking part in the army’s discussions, Da Shun’s soldiers did not voice any objections. This was not entirely because she was the general of the Divine Intent Army, nor was it because she had been conferred the Hou Yi Bow by the Emperor. As a person grows in power so too will their influence.* In truth, Feng Yu Heng had already become a mythical existence to the army; moreover, she had also killed Duan Mu Cong today. This was a scene that was clearly seen by the entire army.
Feng Yu Heng remained a mythical existence to the entirety of Da Shun’s army. With her at Xuan Tian Ming’s side, it gave everyone present at the strategy meeting a feeling of pride.
But she could not participate for very long. After the forward force entered Guan Zhou, the trailing group also entered the city. This group included Wang Chuan and Huang Quan, who had successfully caught up with Qian Li’s army along with Bai Fu Rong, who had been acting as her body double.
When Feng Yu Heng exited the meeting hall, Wang Chuan and Huang Quan both rushed over. Wang Chuan was relatively calm; however, Huang Quan could not control her emotions and hugged Feng Yu Heng. She was so sorrowful that tears began to stream down her face.
Feng Yu Heng helplessly patted her back, saying: “If you don’t let me go, you’ll strangle me to death.”
Huang Quan stomped her foot before letting go, but she still said: “If young miss still did not appear, this servant would have had to commit suicide in front of his Highness.”
Wang Chuan helplessly shook her head, but she also said: “Young miss’ movements this time were truly too dangerous. If we did not see young miss here, we were originally planning to think of a way to get into the city to try and ask around.”
Feng Yu Heng told the two: “It wasn’t as dangerous as you two think. Moreover, Ban Zou also came. With him here, I can be protected.”
Huang Quan snorted coldly, saying: “That brat at least knows to rush over here from the capital. It seems that young miss did not waste her time doting on him, but I saw him going to take a look at that Fu Ya earlier. Is that a mission assigned to him by young miss?”
Feng Yu Heng was slightly startled. Only then did she remember that she had indeed seen Ban Zou when she had gone to check on Fu Ya, but she did not leave Ban Zou with this mission. Who knew why that guy would be so interested.
Seeing that Feng Yu Heng did not say anything, Huang Quan wanted to continue asking; however, she was cut off by Wang Chuan: “Let’s not talk about that stuff first. Young miss, there is something that this servant has been thinking about this entire time.”
The three spoke while walking toward the inner courtyard of the prefectural office. After the women in the manor received Xuan Tian Ming’s promise to not pursue Zhao Tian Qi’s guilt, they finally calmed down completely. They took the initiative to clean up the inner courtyard, opening up some main rooms for Feng Yu Heng and the others to rest. When they were passing by courtyards and through halls, Wang Chuan stopped and pointed at a room in a courtyard, saying in a small voice: “The Bai family’s young miss is staying there. She came from the camp with us. Ever since his Highness’ army met up with Qian Li, when we saw the Bai family’s young miss, we felt that something was not quite right. Normally speaking, this is someone that we knew back in the capital. The Bai family’s young miss was beautiful, but it was not a beauty that came as a result of makeup. I have scarcely ever seen her with any powder. Even during major holidays, it would be at most some light makeup. But when we met up this time, she was covered in thick makeup, and she had a thick layer of red lipstick on, and she said that it looks very good.”
Huang Quan nodded, also saying: “We didn’t notice where it looked good. We just thought that it was weird, and it seemed like she was a different person. She is completely different from the previous Bai family’s young miss.”
Wang Chuan thought a bit then added: “Perhaps this makeup is for the sake of hiding something because this servant saw her coughing up blood one night.”
Feng Yu Heng furrowed her brow tightly. Bai Fu Rong using heavy amounts of makeup, coughing up blood and the handkerchief handed to her by Qing Le acted as constant reminders to her that something was definitely wrong. She originally wanted to bring this up with Xuan Tian Ming when they met up, but they ended up meeting on the battlefield. After that, she found that there was nothing off about Xuan Tian Ming, thus the matter was delayed. Now that Wang Chuan brought it up, she thought about it then simply went toward Bai Fu Rong’s room.
The courtyard was guarded by soldiers. After all, this was Guan Zhou, which had served as a staging ground for Duan Mu family for many years. Even if Xuan Tian Ming’s army had successfully taken it, there was no way to guarantee that a crisis would not suddenly occur.
Seeing that Feng Yu Heng came over, the soldiers saluted. Feng Yu Heng asked one of them: “Has the person resting inside ever come out?”
The soldier shook his head, “Replying to imperial daughter, no. Aside from adjutant Bai, who had come by earlier, there was nobody else to have come by this courtyard.”
Feng Yu Heng did not say anything else, increasing her pace. When she arrived at the door, she reached out to push the door but found that the door could not be pushed open. She raised her voice, saying: “Fu Rong, it’s me, Heng. I came to see you.”
The person inside paused for a moment before speaking. The voice was not loud. It belonged to Bai Fu Rong, but it sounded rather weak, “Heng, I’m really sleepy. Let me sleep for a while. Let’s talk later, alright!”
Feng Yu Heng furrowed her brow slightly and immediately made a decision, quickly saying: “That’s fine. After all of the travel, you must be tired. Get some rest. We’ll eat breakfast tomorrow morning.” After saying this, she turned and left.
Wang Chuan and Huang Quan followed behind her. Huang Quan had an anxious disposition, quickly asking: “Young miss, what do you have planned?”
Feng Yu Heng thought a bit then said: “If she obediently stays in her room, it’s fine. Either way, we can talk when we see each other in the morning. Right,” She asked the two, “Did his Highness notice the change in Bai Fu Rong?”
Wang Chuan nodded, saying: “Young miss, don’t worry. His Highness said that back when this servant went to look for the third young miss and ended up bringing the Bai family’s young miss, there was already a problem. His Highness also has the same thoughts as young miss. Just wait and see what she does. Observing quietly is good.”
Feng Yu Heng returned to the innermost room of her courtyard while speculating about the change in Bai Fu Rong. At this time, Bai Fu Rong supported herself and sat up in bed.
The formerly healthy girl appeared to have aged by many decades after just a few months. Her hair was withered and yellow, and her face was colorless. Even her lips were completely pale-white like the ice and snow from the North. That was not all, as wrinkles had begun to cover the face that should have been very delicate. There were also dark spots. If one did not recognize her, they would definitely guess that she was in her late-30s. And even this was the 30s for a commoner, which was completely different from the 30s of woman in a large household that could preserve their skin.
Bai Fu Rong did not have much strength. Sitting on her bed, she was like an aged woman. Looking at the door, she could practically hear Feng Yu Heng’s group leaving. As she listened, a couple tears appeared in the corners of her eyes. Her tears were not clear and carried a bit of blood in them. It was as though she was crying blood. With every tear that fell, her vision would blur by a bit.
She did her best to hold back her tears, forcefully holding her head up to pull her tears back. She did not dare see Feng Yu Heng. In fact, she did not dare meet anyone. This aged appearance was the result of her lying to Qian Zhou, hiding Feng Yu Heng’s movements. During the day, she could only rely on makeup to cover things up. Even at night, she did not dare to take the makeup off.
Xuan Tian Ming had once asked her why she would do her make up like this. She used the excuse of girls liking to be beautiful to cover it up; however, Bai Ze snorted slightly, saying that it was not beautiful.
She also knew that it was not beautiful, and it was very ugly. But what else could she do? Since she chose to not sell out Feng Yu Heng and not betray Da Shun, she had to endure this outcome. Qian Zhou’s people had never been merciful when taking action. With just a single pill, she began to look older after just seven days. This sort of aging would get worse every three days. Bai Fu Rong did not know how much longer she could endure. In any case, now that she saw Feng Yu Heng safely regroup with Xuan Tian Ming, she could finally be at ease.
She thought that even if she got older with each passing day until she died, there were no longer any regrets.
Sighing gently, she slowly got out of bed. Today was the third day since the last time she had aged. She could clearly feel that she had aged another decade since yesterday. Even walking was no longer as easy as before.
Bai Fu Rong walked over to the table, wanting to pour a cup of water for herself. When she lifted the teapot full of water, her hand trembled slightly. Who knew if it was because some tears had just fallen, but her vision was now much blurrier than just earlier. It seemed that the mouth of the teapot did not line up with the cup, and she had poured it onto the table. She calculated it. Her current age should be nearing 60. How long could a person possibly live? 70? 80? For a normal commoner, 60 was already considered having lived a long time, right? After another three days and at most six days, she would be saying goodbye to this world.
“Heng.” She quietly muttered, “You made an appointment to eat breakfast with me tomorrow, but how could I dare to see you with this appearance.”
She put down the cup and coughed forcefully for a while. She had just drank a bit of water, yet she still choked to this degree. Bai Fu Rong recalled the time when she was in the capital. A granny that had taken care of her for many years was also like this. She swayed while walking, her calves trembling. When she spoke, it sounded like air was barely coming out. When drinking some water, she would end up coughing. Her father said that a servant must not be sent away just because they were old. In any case, this was a family, and they would be able to live out their last years.
But now, she was also in her later years. Right, teeth. She had lost a number of teeth. She only had one of her front teeth remaining. She did not even dare open her mouth to speak, fearing that it would be seen through by someone.
Bai Fu Rong had a bitter expression. Where was there any sign of that casual young miss from a large family. Those days of playing around with Feng Yu Heng, Xuan Tian Ge and the others in the capital felt like a different time. It felt as though it had happened in a previous life. As for her current life, it was about to come to an end.
She stood up and wanted to return to her bed to lie down. At this time, she heard someone knock at her door once more. Immediately following this, a voice that she was hoping to hear yet dreaded hearing said: “Hey! Xiao Bai! If you don’t eat dinner, are you planning to starve to death?”
*TN: The idiom here is “A person’s influence grows, they will become like the shade of a large tree.”