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“Zichuan, what happened to your leg?” Fang Hua lowered his head, shifting the lid of his teacup as he sipped. “Where did you two go?”
The air suddenly turned cold.
Things abruptly became extremely quiet as I felt a piercing gaze boring into my back. It felt like I was suddenly sitting on pins and needles. I lowered my head even further, furiously filling up my bowl.
“Shao’er went with me on a stroll,” Han Zichuan smiled, taking out his own chopsticks. “He saw that I was still a stranger to the place, so the offer was made with good intentions. Unfortunately, it was raining outside, so I fell on the slippery grounds.” After speaking, he even cast a glance my way. “None of this is Brother Shao’s fault.”
I felt rather disagreeable as my gaze drifted to the skies. Wasn’t this a case of burying the silver, then sticking up a sign that said ‘no silver buried here'? Silence reigned as I continued to fill up my bowl.
Yifu smiled, and I felt his comfortable, at-ease gaze gradually return to look at me again. He only said softly, “Is that so…”
This neutral tone of speaking would usually be no cause for alarm. But since he used it here, it felt as if he had some misgivings about our answers. At least, it sure kept a person guessing.
I closed my eyes and pretended to be deaf. My left hand grabbed one mantou while my right hand grabbed another, both of which I crammed into my mouth.
I wholly absorbed myself in stuffing my face, but my heart was trembling inside.
This Han Zichuan.
His nerves weren’t half-bad, making up lies like that.
“Shao’er…” a soft voice drifted over.
I shook and raised my head to look at Fang Hua.
“Don’t just eat mantou when there’s so many dishes today. You should leave some for Zichuan, too.” Fang Hua was leaning against his chair, head propped on one hand, his eyes cold as he gazed at me.
I remained sullen.
“It’s fine, I’ll eat these slices of beef,” Han Zichuan rolled up his sleeves, speaking as he readied his chopsticks. Before he could pick up a piece, I gave him a ferocious glare. He understood immediately. The chopsticks in his hands jerked aside and got some pieces of pickled cucumber instead. Then he stopped speaking altogether.
Hmph. Don’t think you can start flaunting around just because yifu treats you well.
Actually, yifu was probably only worried I’d eat nothing but mantou. Hn, as if I’d let you eat all the meat by yourself, outsider…that had to be the situation. I look up at Fang Hua, then spared a glance at That Guy…
My heart felt extremely irritated just staring at the way That Guy used his chopsticks. I raised my foot and secretly gave him another kick.
“Owww….” That Guy groaned.
“What’s wrong? Does your foot hurt again? Come…” Yifu stood up, waving towards him. “Let me take a look for you.”
I was surprised. Han Zichuan left his chopsticks and reassured me with a grin before hobbling over.
Yifu personally helped him lie down before undoing his clothing to check the location of the injury. Han Zichuan knitted his eyebrows before turning around to look at me with a bright smile.
“Does it hurt…”
“It should be fine. The kick was well-aimed and didn’t hurt your bones. All you have to do is apply some medicinal salve. Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”
I threw my chopsticks on the table with a pa! sound. It was impossible to eat dinner now…
Before I’d taken more than a few steps, yifu’s voice spoke up: gentle, calm and clear. “Shao’er, you seem to be suffering from inflammation today, and your temper’s extremely bad. Is it because…” His tone was filled with hesitation.
I suddenly had an urge to run away.
As it turned out, he said the following. “You and I are family, but you always act like an outsider…come, I’ll treat both of you. I brought my acupuncture needles today so I can prick you a few times. For you to get swollen every few days isn’t good.”
In a flash, I grew unsteady.
Han Zichuan was still lying on the bench as he looked my way, concerned and yet confused. “Swollen? Where is the swelling?”
“Of course it’s where he’s covering it up with his hands,” Fang Hua replied.
Han Zichuan half raised himself up and stared in the direction of my chest, a complicated expression in his eyes.
These two jerks.
I’m not dealing with this anymore.
“Where are you going…?” Fang Hua finally abandoned his smooth tone and that well-behaved expression.
“I’m going to soak in a medicinal bath,” I half-turned but didn’t move, wavering between staying and leaving.
“You don’t need to today,” he looked at me and with a toss of his hand, caused the flaps of his sleeves to open. Something flew out from its depths towards me. Surprised, I reached out and caught it in my hands.
It was a white porcelain vase as big as my palm, stoppered with a brilliant red cloth. It looked extremely cute and felt cool to the touch.
“This is the antidote I just made today. Mix it with the water behind the house and spread it over your body.” He stood there smiling at me, a warm look in his eyes.
“Many thanks to yifu.”
Han Zichuan looked at us, a confused expression on his face. But I didn’t feel like paying him any attention, especially when I felt so excited.
Heaven and God on Earth…
I finally received the antidote.
The next moment I was nearly tripping over myself to get to the back of the house. The willow catkins swayed in the wind. I took a few steps into the woods and came upon the jade-colored pond, its waters lit up dazzlingly by the sunlight that streamed down from between the trees.
I looked around me, and let out a whistle.
Taking off my outer robes, I left them on the rocks and leaped into the water, where I slowly sank down as I swam towards the center…
Summer had finally arrived, but I still couldn’t help but tremble at the cold. The water here was completely frigid year-round, but it never froze. Its jade-green hues gave off a carefree, happy feeling. Fang Hua once said that the waters here were extremely helpful for refining medicines.
I held the bottle between my fingers as I pulled out the stopper. Then I poured some into my palm and slathered it over an arm.
It was weird, but the oily liquid in my palm suddenly started to burn my arm with a scorching heart…then it turned numb, and the dark black layers of my skin seemed to become a little red. I started to worry and immediately soaked my arm underwater, where it felt a little better.
I glanced suspiciously at the medicine, afraid to use any more.
Wasn’t this just made today?
I’m not being used to test it out, right?
I swam back to shore, deciding it’d be best to ask Fang Hua for an explanation. But just as I was setting the bottle aside, my foot carelessly stepped onto a fragment of rock. The hand holding the medicine was still covered in medicinal oil and very slippery. In a flash, the bottle slipped out of my grasp, flipped in the air a few times, and splashed me in the face with its contents…
A numbing, raging fire…
I shut my eyes and plunged into the water.
With pain like this, it felt like my face was burning off. Eyes half-open, I groped around until I found my clothes by the shore again, and used them to wipe myself. When I finally opened my eyes, I seized up at the sight of a pair of boots…
There was also the soft, draping folds of a robe adorned with plum blossom branches, giving its squatting owner a unique style.
“Shao’er, your face…” Han Zichuan had an uncertain expression as he poked me, before scooting closer for a better look. He rubbed at the skin gently, but the cooling sensation of his finger caused me to give a contented sigh.
In response, his face turned red.
I looked at him, not understanding. He looked even more confused than I felt.
He kept rubbing gently at my skin until his finger dug at something. I felt a cold sensation on my face, as if something was being torn off…
no silver buried here (???????) ?cidi wuyin sanbailiang, or “no 300 taels of silver buried here”, meaning a clumsy denial resulting in self exposure, a weak excuse that gives everything away. Based on a folk tale of a man who tried to hide his money in just a way.
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