Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 12 - The "Sorrowful" Page
Late night at Prince De's residence. Lamp lights extinguished one by one, and besides patrolling night guards, there were no other sounds. At some point during the night it began to drizzle. The gossamer strands of winter rain fell onto the dark stone ground with "sha sha" sounds, faintly shimmering with the reflections of distant torch fires. The figures of the patrolling guards, obscured by curtains of rain, became even darker and even more indistinct.
At this time, a more lively and slender shadow ghosted past each of the buildings along the road. Her figure projected onto the mirror-like ground as only a dab of gray-black shadow, in an instant dashing past the marching troops.
Prowling the night amidst dim moon and light rain, for the express purpose of smacking a pair mandarin ducks with a stick.
Before setting off Meng Fuyao had already gathered some information on Guo Pingrong's situation. How could Guo Pingrong not have had any concubines before? It was only that all the women who stayed by his side, had committed suicide! Qiao Ling lived isolated inside the princely residence and so was not privy to inside information, but among outside residents rumors had already spread wide and far - girls from good families would all take the long route around the Guo residence gates. Now that Qiao Ling had been noticed by Guo Pingrong because of her pair of eyes that looked similar to Fuyao's, it was ultimately impossible that Guo Pingrong would treat Qiao Ling well. Fuyao had no choice but to brandish her stick!
Fuyao sprinted the whole way while wearing dark clothes and covering her face. Because of her qinggong and familiarity with the area, she quickly managed to vault into Prince De's back courtyards.
Lady Qiao Ling flew onto the treetop and became a phoenix in one short day, already moving into the Fragrant Lotus Pavilion to prepare for the wedding procession tomorrow. Perhaps it was because suddenly becoming a bride was too shocking, but right now just past midnight the Fragrant Lotus Pavilion's lights were still unextinguished.
With a lift of her feet, Fuyao brushed through the half-closed shutters like a cloud, lightly landing inside.
The young girl sitting in front of the dressing table jumped in fright, quickly whipping her head up. Under the lamp light the fair hair on her temples shone beautifully - it was Qiao Ling, who had already changed into a wife's wedding attire.
Seeing Fuyao, she was shocked and was just about to yell out, before in a swift move Fuyao rushed over to cover her mouth. In a low voice Fuyao said, "Don't shout, I'm here to save you."
Qiao Ling widened her eyes in astonishment, staring at the suspicious person who was coming to "save her" despite her situation not needing any saving at all. Suddenly she thought of a scary possibility, and her whole body started to tremble.
"Hey hey, what are you scared of." Meng Fuyao grinned cheerfully. "I have no interest in stealing your first time, it's not like I'm a handsome man or anything."
Fuyao patted Qiao Ling's shoulder. "Long things short, you should quickly leave with me and not marry Guo Pingrong."
Qiao Ling, however, suddenly pulled away Fuyao's hand. Staring intently at Fuyao she asked, "Why shouldn't I?"
"Ai … how should I explain?" Fuyao felt a little panicked. "That guy is not anything good."
"If you marry a chicken follow a chicken, if you marry a dog follow a dog! Besides General Guo is a second-rank high official in the Empire, how could you slander my dear husband like this!" Qiao Ling's willowy brows leapt up, as she became angry all of a sudden.
"Your dear husband?" Fuyao skeptically raised an eyebrow. It couldn't be, she embraced her position this fast?
Meng Fuyao didn't know whether to laugh or cry as she looked at Qiao Ling. "Don't tell me that after only meeting him once today, you have already set your heart on marrying Guo Pingrong?"
"Why not marry him?" Qiao Ling threw aside Fuyao's outstretched hand as she indignantly widened her eyes. "I'm just one of the lowliest coarse labor servants in Prince De's residence. Starting from when I was sold into the household at five years old, every day I would rise early and sleep late busying myself with errands, and of the less than three silvers I earn every month I send more than half back home! Regularly finishing work on an empty stomach, while my underclothes have so many stitches they can barely maintain my decency! In the residence first waiting for Master to order me about, second waiting for momo to bully me, third waiting for the older maids to extort me, even the outer court page servants would give me the eye when I meet them!" She thrust out her forearm to show Fuyao a bruise on her wrist. "Do you see this scar? From momo's pinches! Today I will finally leave this bitter life. As the first woman of a second-rank general, this is good fortune that I wouldn't be able to gather even with several lifetimes – I would be a lunatic if I didn't marry him!"
Meng Fuyao was silent, for the time being not sure how to explain the situation to the girl. What Qiao Ling said was not wrong either. For her type of lowly maidservant, now that she had this fate-changing opportunity to rise in status like a dragon or phoenix, what kind of excuse would make her give it all up? But for Fuyao to just watch as the naïvely excited girl went to face an ill-intentioned Guo Pingrong who was even rumored to be sadomasochistic, to face an uncertain fate that was solely caused by Fuyao herself - Meng Fuyao truly could not.
After thinking for some time, it looked like Fuyao could only bring out what she believed was an absolute trump card: "You might not know this, but Guo Pingrong is a … sexual sadist!"
"Sadist?" Qiao Ling widened her eyes. Only after thinking for a while did she realize the general meaning of Fuyao's modern day term. Suddenly becoming bashful, she demurely lowered her head. With her finger twisting around in her waist strap and a rosy face, she quietly replied, "My mother taught me this before, when a woman marries out she must follow her husband. The affairs between a man and a woman on the bed … as long as us women act more submissive and mild, and tolerate for a time … it will pass just like that."
Meng Fuyao looked at the sky with a face full of despair. How could she forget about the huge contrast in views between ancient and modern women when it came to marriage and family!
"Ai, it doesn't matter!" Fuyao clenched her teeth. Why was she still wasting her words on this girl, might as well just knock her unconscious and carry her away. Even if she hates me later, at least her life was saved, and as long as my conscience is appeased nothing else matters.
Just as Fuyao was going to reach out to jab her pressure point, she instead heard Qiao Ling suddenly raise her head and say, "You are little brother Meng from Sir Zong's place, aren't you?"
"Huh?" Meng Fuyao inspected herself in shock, was her disguise this horrible?
"Even when I was little, I was good at discerning people's voices." Qiao Ling continued. "Your voice is now changed a little deeper on purpose, but I am still able to hear the difference." She suddenly sighed, saying, "Dear little brother Meng, I know that you … like me, but, we are not meant to be."
In that instant, Fuyao suddenly turned to stone. Even her outstretched finger aimed at Qiao Ling's pressure point had been petrified into a sculpture.
What and what now … ?
"You often came to the little kitchen to make small talk with me, and even smiled at me … in actuality I already knew all this …" Qiao Ling tilted her head to look at Fuyao. With her face filled with pity she quietly said, "I also quite … like you. If it wasn't for the honorable general choosing me, I had thoughts of you and me before … but now … little brother Meng, please, it would be best to let go of your feelings!"
About me going to the kitchen often - it was to steal some sweets when you weren't paying attention!
About me smiling at you – who don't I smile at!?
The blow Fuyao had received tonight was too heavy, so heavy that even if she cracked open her lips to speak nothing would come out. Her long sighing figure, staring at the sky, to Qiao Ling looked just like a sorrowful page whose "loved one was about to marry off, yet even if he wanted to leave her he couldn't".
Qiao Ling's eyebrows faintly knitted together. All of a sudden, in a higher voice, she decisively said, "Me marrying the general is my fortune! Little brother Meng, please stop standing in the way of my happiness, or else I will hate you!"
"Your mother, hate me then …" Meng Fuyao hopelessly grumbled a little, then without another word she shot out with her palm. The wind stirred, enveloping Qiao Ling's acupoint. Seeing her expression of consternation, mixed in with hopefulness, Fuyao's heart suddenly jumped and she had a faint feeling of unease.
It was late midnight. Why was the Qiao Ling who was going to get married tomorrow still not asleep?
Why was her hair already brushed into the style of a married woman?
And also, her suddenly louder voice just then …
Meng Fuyao instantly leapt up, somersaulting in the air. Like a dark swallow Qiao Ling tumbled 360 degrees and in a blink had already flown out of the window.
"Where do you think you're going!"
A deep bellow rose from the inner chambers. The door-hanging pearl curtains suddenly scattered out with a shua sound, fragmenting into a shining, eye-dazzling waterfall. Then it was fiercely collected together by an invisible hand, transforming into a tight pearl whip that impacted Fuyao's lower back with a slapping sound!
Even before the pearl whip had reached her, the person had already arrived - without even a greeting Guo Pingrong had already arrived at Meng Fuyao's back.
Not even turning her head, Fuyao reached out a hand to grab a different long whip. The whip left a faint jade shadow as it cracked twice in two directions, and with a hua la la all the pearls scattered onto the floor once again.
Pearls rolled across the whole floor, with some getting under the feet of the chasing Guo Pingrong and quickly causing him to stumble and trip. Hateful thoughts flashed through Fuyao's mind, and she yelled "Take this palm!"
She suddenly stopped fleeing, and with a turn she thrust out a palm strike towards Guo Pingrong. Delight rose in Guo Pingrong's heart - he had always been an expert in palm arts, so now that the enemy wanted to contest him with a palm it was just to his liking. A lift of his hand brought his palm to meet Fuyao's.
However just then several jet-black steel needles suddenly appeared in between her fingers.
Guo Pingrong's hand immediately shrunk back, but unexpectedly Fuyao retreated even faster than him! The palm strike was an empty pretense and the needles she wasn't even planning to use in the first place - before her hand had reached out, her legs had already risen up. In a mid-air backwards vault, her long legs fiercely swung out above her head and with a "pa" one leg kicked over a dark object.
At the same time she laughed out, "Eat my bomb!"
Her Grand Jeté splayed out like a cloud-soaring crane. A mass of black shot over from her kick, and the word "bomb" made Guo Pingrong and the guards rushing over instinctively think of firebombs and the like, causing them to hurriedly fall back.
"Poof!" The mass landed on the ground, following which putrid gas spread in four directions and dark mud flew out!
It was the fertilizer that Zong Yue specially used to raise blood fleeceflower root, "putrid mud", further added with some nose-offending ingredients. Fuyao had hidden a small package of it, originally planned to be used on Master Yuanbao for fun, but now it was perfect as a gift for great general Guo!
"Does it taste good? Eat more if you want, don't be polite!" Meng Fuyao cracked up laughing as she flew past the rooftops like a shooting star. By the time Guo Pingrong escaped the black mud bath and went to chase, she was long gone.
As she sprinted out of Prince De's residence, it escaped her notice that on some distant eaves tops were some dark-clothed figures, who seemed to have melded into the night. After she left the figures exchanged a glance, and quietly left the mansion as well.
As for Guo Pingrong who stood in the wind staring at the ground full of black dirt, when he thought of that young girl's slender waist and legs during her backflip, a hint of bloodthirst gleamed deep in his eyes.Footnotes Mandarin ducks is a term for a loving couple, and "smacking a pair of mandarin ducks with a stick" means to forcibly break up a couple. An old saying for wives to remain faithful to their husband no matter how bad they were. Yes, ancient times were quite backwards in terms of gender equality. 嬷嬷, a nanny or older maid who was in charge of all the servants in a large household Ballet move where your back leg would be thrown into the air at a high angle