Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 8 – The Shocking Abandoned Courtyard
A wind blew over from somewhere she didn’t know, lifting her in a slow, leisurely swaying motion … on top of a distant mountain slope seemed to be an ancient temple, the eaved and bracketed corner suddenly vanishing in a flash … it was very soft under her body, she could see rattan strips and a beautiful mattress … murky waves of mist in the surroundings … a person in the water.
A wrinkled, old hand reached over … low, rueful sighs … a sudden glimpse, amidst the dim, claustrophobic space, of a bit of purple light shining through the gap … an instant of shock, endless fright … a glint of sword light sweeping down, bright illumination filling her view, within the brightness vaguely a delicate-featured face … the next moment the drifting started again … as if a white puffy dandelion being blown past high hills and valleys … something landed on her face, a tickling itch.
Meng Fuyao reached out her hand, erratically rubbing everywhere on her face – huh, why was it so itchy?
Drowsily opening her eyes, she saw a snow white butt.
That butt was currently stuck on her face, rubbing over and over again, a tiny short tail swishing over and over again, on her face sweeping over and over again.
The origin of the itch was from this.
Meng Fuyao lazily stretched her hand to pull, pulling that ball of stuff down while mumbling and complaining. “Don’t shed hairs on my face.”
She squinted for a while, before sleepily realizing something was not right. How could this Yuanbao thing be so caring, even coming to wake her up?
After that she felt there was something sticky on her face, seemingly also having a bad odor. Sticking out her finger to wipe it off, on her fingertip was a bit of suspiciously yellow, dubious substance.
“What is this?” Meng Fuyao narrowed her eyes.
Master Yuanbao crouched far away on top of the table, watching her with a suspicious gaze that looked extremely indecent.
Fuyao sat up while shaking her heavy head. Just as she thought to crawl up and wash her face, the door suddenly opened. Outlined by bright sunlight, Yuan Zhaoxu entered, and behind him followed two maids.
He first smiled at Fuyao, then said to the Yuanbao who was about to slink away, “Little Cai De said that you didn’t wait for her to wipe clean your bowel movement this morning before running away. What were you doing running so hurriedly?”
Bowel movement … didn’t wipe clean … the dubious substance on her face …
Did this thing use her face as toilet paper just now, rubbing its butt that had just pooped, on her face?
“AH!” Meng Fuyao exploded with a ferocious roar, leaping up to find her dagger. “I’m going to cut this rat up and make it into soup!”
Master Yuanbao had already started sprinting towards the window with a “chi liu” sound, as if wind currents picked up under its claws. With a wave of Meng Fuyao’s hand, the blanket shot out to crush down against the window frame, shattering three vases with “pa pa pa” sounds. Yet, Master Yuanbao had long ago disappeared from view.
Still brimming with unreleased fury, Fuyao jumped down from the bed to chase, but was suddenly pulled back by Yuan Zhaoxu.
Then, her body suddenly felt lighter – she had already been embraced by Yuan Zhaoxu. Meng Fuyao was stunned, suddenly realizing that she was wearing her underclothes. Furthermore, they were skin-tight underclothes with uncommon meaning – they were the camisole and shorts that she had made herself.
The camisole was very small, wrapping her body so tightly that it was vividly contoured. The shorts were very large, fluttering in the air and extremely chilly.
This type of dress, not mentioning this ancient time period, even if it were seen in the modern era it would still be considered inappropriate. Even worse, right now a certain person’s hand was impolitely pressing on her waist. That warm palm was like a small furnace, and the places it touched burned with a fiery blaze.
Blazing flames also seemed to be burning inside Yuan Zhaoxu’s eyes. That young woman’s body in front of him, full yet not lacking in slimness, with her slender neck and jade limbs, long legs and fine fingers; no place was not beautiful, no place was not exquisite. The strange and odd clothing not only didn’t detract from her beauty, but instead outlined her outstanding figure even more fantastically. He could see that enticing arc in front of her chest, see those delicate and slim long legs underneath the drifting wide shorts, and even more so feel the shocking softness of the waistline under his hand, amazingly elastic.
This scene where both purity and flirtation, naivety and allurement coexisted, was like a brilliant warm seasonal breeze, carrying vivid color that dazzled one’s eyes as it swept over from the front. Even the level-headed and respectable Yuan Zhaoxu could not help but have a slight hitch in his breathing.
Suddenly he lightly smiled. His finger stroked his own lips, as his expression showed a lingering remembrance as if he were savoring an aftertaste.
Meng Fuyao lifted her head and saw his expression. Despite not understanding the meaning behind his movement, and not remembering her indecent actions last night, she still unconsciously felt her face redden. She hurriedly reached out to push him back while jumping back with a “shua”. Before she even reached the ground, she was pulled still by Yuan Zhaoxu again, only in this short instance his eyes had already recovered their usual brightness. He faintly said, “Be careful, there are shattered vase fragments on the ground.”
His tone was light, yet his line of sight didn’t shy away from anything, sweeping past all of Meng Fuyao’s exposed regions. Seeing this Fuyao quickly slipped into the blankets, wildly gesturing. “Go out go out, I want to change.”
Chuckling, Yuan Zhaoxu left and closed the door behind him. His tall form floated past the window frame, which was when he heard a light sound from outside the window. With a “pa” sound the window flap was pulled open, and a certain round ball was thrown tumbling inside.
“Yuanbao, sneakily peeping from outside will lose me a lot of face, if you want to watch then watch out in the open.”
The person’s voice floated in from outside the window, serene, noble, elegant, completely unmoved.
The pitiful Master Yuanbao that was sold out by its own master widened its eyes with panic in mid-air, its eyes staring at the Meng Fuyao it was falling towards. While in front of it, on the bed, its arch nemesis and love rival Fuyao had a wide, sinister smile on her face as she stretched out her arms, awaiting Yuanbao’s landing.
In that moment the ten great punishments flashed through Master Yuanbao’s mind … 
An extremely tragic, piercing howl suddenly came out of the mouth of the self-respectable Divine Enigma Rat Master Yuanbao – Meng Fuyao grinned as she blew out some snot, and while chuckling, she rubbed it onto the snow white fur of Master Yuanbao …
In the early morning, the alleyway outside Prince De’s courtyard was tranquil and calm, undisturbed by people.
Sunlight shone on top of the south-western corner of the courtyard walls. A clump of grass on the wall top shook, and a head popped out.
The head warily glanced east then west. Seeing that the Dexin Courtyard was completely silent with its doors and windows closed shut, she thought that the inhabitants must be currently in a deep sleep. Unable to help but lightly let out a quiet sigh, she nimbly crawled over the wall.
This wall-crawling daytime intruder was naturally Meng Fuyao. After she had awoken from her alcohol-induced daze at the Canglan xinggong, she suddenly remembered that she had not returned at all that night. Not wanting Yao Xun and Zong Yue to think her missing, she hurriedly ran back here. Before leaving she thought of those child prostitutes, but Yuan Zhaoxu only said that there was another reason for them and told her not to worry about them, causing Fuyao to have no choice but to resentfully return to the courtyard.
Just when she lifted her leg to vault over the wall, with her other leg yet to land on the other side, a calm voice lightly traveled over all of a sudden.
“The door is open.”
The implied meaning behind those words, was that there was no need to climb the wall now.
The “drinking outside, not returning all night” Meng Fuyao originally felt just a tiny little bit of shame. In order to enter her room she needed to pass by Zong Yue’s building, so she planned to go over the wall route; yet who could have predicted that she was called out by the uncooperative Zong Yue almost immediately?
Whatever, who cares about being called out? Fuyao decided to simply not continue anymore. She maintained her one leg in one leg out position as she sat on top of the wall, her two arms crossed in front. She raised her head to exclaim: “Today’s sunlight sure is bright …”
From the sky fell down a few drips of cold rain, frigid and icy. A couple snowflakes lazily drifted down.
Amidst the snowflakes Fuyao drunkenly shouted, “The weather sure is comfortable …”
After thoroughly praising the scenic weather and temperate climate, Meng Fuyao unhurriedly came down from the wall top, then placidly walked past Zong Yue’s building door.
Suddenly stopping in front of the door, she drew her head over to sniff, saying, “This medicine odor sure is smelly.” When her eyes shifted, she discovered Zong Yue sitting cross-legged on the ground. Observing him through a window obscured by horizontally hanging plum blossoms, she noticed his face color seemed a little pale, while on top of a table besides him was an empty bowl with some residual traces of liquid that had not dried yet. The medicinal smell was coming from there.
Seeing Fuyao was looking at the medicine bowl, Zong Yue’s vision contracted. With a wave of his sleeve the window slammed shut with a “pa” sound, nearly hitting Fuyao’s nose.
Meng Fuyao rubbed her nose as she walked back to her room, wondering if Zong Yue was making prescriptions, or was he wounded himself? This poison-tongued man was so furtive and sneaky, it would probably be better to stay away from him.
After entering her room she washed and groomed herself clean. Yao Xun knocked on the door carrying a box of food over to eat breakfast. Having ran around for half the night Fuyao just happened to be quite starved, and so without caring about anything else she swept towards the food like a whirlwind. Only once she finished the food did she wipe her mouth and ask: “This green rice porridge had a pretty unique flavor, was it rice cooked with good quality herbs or something?”
Yao Xun shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know either, this porridge was what Sir Zong instructed for you to eat after you came back.”
“Ah?” Meng Fuyao leapt up, revolving her qi in a hurry, but in the end didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Still not assured of Zong Yue’s character, Fuyao sat there and thought hard for a while. She suddenly blurted, “The fake seven-leaves grass you picked yesterday, did you give them to Zong Yue afterwards?”
“Yeah,” Yao Xun replied with some satisfaction, “I originally wanted to obediently pick some real seven-leaves grass, but who knew that the real stuff was too tough, and hard to mash up? In contrast, the grass you pointed out was smashed into paste much more easily. When I gave it to Zong Yue he actually didn’t realize, haha, looks like the much-lauded medicine saint is only worth this much.”
Without even listening to the rest of his speech, Meng Fuyao had already sprinted out. Yao Xun followed her out with confusion, only to see Fuyao crouching down besides a patch of grass, wailing.
“Kao … this is Yin Yang Grass … are my eyes blind or something …. !?” ——–
Fuyao crawled on the ground with her butt sticking up. Her eyes had widened into the size of abacus beads as she scratched and dug at the ground.
As she dug into the ground, she continuously rubbed her face – the major side effect of Yin Yang Grass was to reverse yin and yang. If a person of yang ate the grass during the nighttime, it could cure deficiencies; however if a person of yin ate the grass during the daytime, their internal yang fire would rise and their entire face would start sprouting acne, making them look like a teenager. Unlike a teenager, though, if the antidote was not ingested the pimples would grow bigger and bigger, unable to be treated.
The rock Fuyao lifted had ended up smashing her own foot, so now she could only crawl on the ground to find the antidote. The antidote was the seeds of the Yin Yang Grass – those things were extremely small, and when scattered on the ground they were extremely difficult to find. Fuyao searched for half a day, yet the amount she managed to scavenge was still not enough for one dose of antidote.
Huffing and puffing as she stood up straight, Meng Fuyao clenched her teeth as she threw daggers with her eyes towards Zong Yue’s house. Only after doing this for a long time did she remember that Zong Yue had already left to treat Prince De, and so couldn’t see her at all – she could only bitterly lower her head to continue searching. Suddenly, she thought of an abandoned courtyard they had passed by a couple days ago. She remembered that Yin Yang Grass was very plentiful there, so finding the grass seeds should be a lot easier. Thus she promptly dragged Yao Xun over.
That abandoned courtyard was at the northwestern corner of the Prince’s residence. From far away one could see its walls peeling, and its hanging eaves broken and deformed. However, the outer walls were built quite sturdily, and covered with ancient spider webs. The tree and plant branches that hung over the walls rustled in the wind, withered and old. In the frosty yin haze of the winter day, the courtyard was sunk thoroughly inside a deep, deathly chill.
As expected, Fuyao and Yao Xun found Yin Yan Grass outside the courtyard, and ater digging for half a day they easily managed to gather the needed amount. Just when they were about to leave, Yao Xun suddenly stopped in his tracks, suspiciously saying, “Lady Meng, look, this courtyard actually has people living in it.”
Meng Fuyao turned her head, and only then did she notice on a tree branch was draped a piece of white clothing, most likely blown up there by the wind. She couldn’t help but be startled for a moment.
Just the fact that this opulent and luxurious Prince De’s residence would have such a place of squalor was already very strange. That there would actually be someone living here, would make one even more surprised.
Fuyao advanced forward several steps and instinctively went to push open the door. The door was locked but the lock was already rusted. She thought for a moment, then turned to climb up the wall.
When Yao Xun wanted to stop her, he was kicked down with a foot.
Jumping down from the wall, Fuyao saw that the scene inside the courtyard was even more desolate than outside. Withered flowers covered the ground, while wild grass was everywhere. The building door that faced towards the courtyard was half-closed. Meng Fuyao walked over step by step. The surroundings were very quiet, and she could hear her own breathing.
Her vision suddenly landed on the door knocker. That wasn’t an ordinary door knocker, but was a pair of small golden bells, delicate and elegant. They had fancy patterns engraved, but inside the engraving seams were now filled with muck and dirt, and the lines were murky black.
The wind blew past, yet the golden bells didn’t sound, making the surroundings seem silent like death. The shriveled leaves on the ground rubbed against each other to create the “si-si” sound of a snake’s rattle.
Yet at this moment, a shrill, forlorn cry suddenly shattered this instance of stillness!
“Zhangsun Wuji! You bastard blood descendant! You conniving, position-stealing, evil and ignoble person!”
—————————————————————————–Footnotes Ten Great Punishments – cruel punishments used on criminals in Ancient China 沧澜, “Canglan”, is the name of the xinggong building that Fuyao visited in the previous chapters. It means “cold and magnificent”