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Spring left and came again, and the years flowed like water between the fingers, escaping all attempts to grasp them. Pear blossoms burst wantonly into bloom, inviting a delicate fragrance into the courtyard.
In the blink of an eye, I had passed a few more years at this house. Fang Hua naturally forgot the events of that night, and I was all too happy to take advantage of the slip. I never brought up the words on the silk cloth again, and the two of us spent our lives peacefully until one day, I discovered that I’d grown quite tall.
The robe I’d worn in prior years seemed more and more fitting to my body, except for its tightness across the chest. I also felt depressed these days. When I was changing my clothes, I once hit against my chest and felt a sharp pain.
My body these days was really weird. It seemed like it was changing, but I couldn’t tell in what way.
I didn’t pay it much attention, because all the little ills and pains in this house were nothing to worry about. Even without mentioning the field of rare and precious plants behind the building because the house, I had Fang Hua, who could concoct all sorts of miraculous cures.
Fang Hua loved to fiddle with the plants and flowers.
He also once told me that medicinal plants and flowers all had their own set of seasons and years. Once that time that passed and they faded, they would be useless. Actually, it was a pity because they could only continue living on as refined pills. But we simply had too many plants in our backyard, so only the relatively rarer ones were picked to be refined.
Every time he finished speaking, he would wear a regretful expression on his face.
But I couldn’t understand how mixing together all these medicinal plants, smashing them to bits, and mixing them with different powders to form into round pills… …
…could do anything to prolong their lives.
Supposing they were human, getting pulverized like that would’ve killed them until even their bones disappeared.
I really didn’t understand a guy like Fang Hua.
Even though I said that, I could well imagine how many different types of rare medicinal ingredients were gathered by him and placed into the beautiful collection of bottles and flasks in the house. These things were precious beyond compare, and a single grain was worth more than ten taels of gold.
Even so, I occasionally made off with one or two jars and dumped the contents in my mouth like soy beans to satisfy my cravings for a good snack.
Fortunately, he only turned a blind eye to these things.
It became hard to sleep with my endless suffering.
I could only lie there stiffly. Turning my body, I beat against my chest…
Seriously, this was so oppressing.
For Mother’s sake…
It was fine if I didn’t hit it, but when I did the pain was enough to make my eyes leak tears.
Pulling open my robes to peer inside, I couldn’t tell if I was being paranoid, or if my chest was really starting to swell a bit.
Could it be that the warm weather, combined with too much water I drank before sleeping, caused my body to bloat?
I bent my arm and gave it a glance, but it looked normal.
In one motion I got up and grabbed the mirror off the short table. The bright yellow hue of bronze dazzled me to a point where I couldn’t open my eyes. I felt my face all over to ascertain that it was the same as before, besides the fact that my skin tone was lighter.
It was no use, I couldn’t fall asleep no matter how much I tossed and turned. I might as well sneak into Fang Hua’s room and steal some medicine to eat and suppress these chest pains.
I hooked up an outer robe and draped it around my shoulders.
Like a thief, I stooped over to put on my boots. With my hand carefully shielding a lantern, I closed the door to my room and started heading outside.
A crescent moon hung high in the sky.
Fang Hua’s room was across the courtyard from mine. The cool and quiet brilliance of the moonlight spilled upon the ground.
His door was closed, and his windows were tightly shut.
Still covering the lantern light from view, I peered towards the paper-covered window. At times it looked pitch-black, but sometimes it seemed that light would waver in and out.
Was he asleep?
But it was still so early…
I grabbed one of my hairpins and tried to spy in the crack between the door and doorframe, my body glued against the door plank as I listened for sounds of movement. My hand was using force too, squeezing the long, thin hairpin through the cracks before wiggling it up and down. After a long while, I unlocked the door.
Heheheh, it’s true what they say about practice makes perfect. I quietly glided through the door.
Just by using the lantern in my hands, I could see the bedcovers were messily pushed aside. Not far away was a pale yellow light emanating from behinda folding screen.
There was even the sound of pouring water.
It seems like he was taking a bath. I immediately bent down, tiptoeing to the cabinet in front of the bed and sizing up the bottles and flasks there. I narrowed my eyes.
I was blank.
Should I get the Ten Perfect Essence Green Tea, or the Nine Condensations of Jade? But the Thousand Creations Sacred Water had strong recuperative properties as well…just that using it to relieve some swelling seemed like a waste.
My fingers slipped over each bottle as I fumbled along.
I got mixed up with the time.
Suddenly, the sound of pouring water behind the screen stopped, and the reflection upon the water’s surface grew extremely clear. The outlines of that person’s face also became increasingly distinct as he turned his head to look my way.
Startled, I quickly lowered my head and blew out the light in my hands. But it was already too late…
“Shao’er, is that you?” a voice carried over from behind the screen, the sounds of a spring bath sure and distinct.
I panicked, picking up my robes with gritted teeth.
Seriously, this was like trying to steal a chicken only to lose the grain used to bait it. To try and gain an advantage, only to end up worse off. I felt like I was choking, but I stubbornly refused to make a noise.
Squatting down, I relaxed my body and decided to start crawling. As long as I made it to the door, then I could sneak away. He wouldn’t try to catch someone without putting on some clothes, right?
As it turned out, I was wrong again.
There was a sound of splashing water. Droplets scattered against the screen, and the painting of mountains and water…was really changed into a literal mountains and water painting. I saw the candle flame wavering behind the screen. His long, graceful figure must have been reflected against the water there, and it must have been extremely beautiful.
By this point, I didn’t even have the energy to try crawling anymore.
“Shao’er, you came at the perfect time. Help me bring my clothes over.” His hand brushed against the screen almost helplessly, while his body descended back into the tub. With a long and gentle breath, he spoke, “I think I put it in the wardrobe next to the bed.”
He didn’t even bring a change of clothes with him when taking a bath.
If I had come any later, wouldn’t I have seen a beautiful naked man walking around the room? …simply thinking about it was just…
I took a deep breath and put on a long face.
Seriously, what timing. I didn’t dare try stealing any more pills, but obediently found him a robe and carried it with both hands behind the screen.
While I was still saying ‘here,’ he suddenly extended a hand and gripped my wrist, the scattered water soaking my sleeves. I blinked a few times, and before I could react…
…I felt a sudden force dragging me over.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what’s going on now?! Save me…I don’t want to spy on an old guy like you bathing!
taels (?) ?liang, also Chinese for the number 2, in this case it’s an ancient unit of weight equal to 40grams, or 1.3oz of silver. short table (?) ?specifically an an, as seen in these images. like a thief (????) ?zeitou zeinao means to have a crafty head and wicked brain, an idiom for behaving, well, like a thief. painting of mountains and water (???) ?shanshui hua, a genre of Chinese painting that focuses on landscapes. Its literal name is “mountain water painting”, probably since both are popular subjects.
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