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Fang Hua actually agreed to go back to the imperial palace with Han Zichuan…
I stood dazed, but he just turned away.
“Brother Shao, go pack up the things in the room,” Han Zichuan’s eyes reflected warmth as they turned to me.
Fang Hua didn’t speak to stop me, or object to the familiarity in Han Zichuan’s actions. On a typical day, even if a half-dead person was lying outside the bamboo forest yelling for help, he’d still be too lazy to save them. So why was he getting involved now?
Could it be because the person asking him was…Han Zichuan?
The room was very quiet and spacious. But now that both of them were standing, the space suddenly became narrow, and I felt like a unnecessary addition… There was a piece of my heart that felt as if it was being pulled taut, making it hard to breathe.
I couldn’t say what kind of sensation this was. Besides being uncomfortable, I also felt a bitter sort of pain that was hard to describe. I turned around and inhaled deeply, my hands clenched into fists.
I should. Start packing.
I didn’t know how long this trip to the palace would take. I’d have to pack my two sets of robes (the ones I took turns washing), and yifu’s usual collection of wonder pills, and…
My gaze swept the corners of the room.
Yifu didn’t eat human food, so I should prepare something fresh for him on the road, pick something that was juicy and sweet…
“Shao’er.” Fang Hua took my sleeve and held me in place, speaking softly. “It’s Zichuan and I that are going to the palace, do you understand?”
They’re not taking me…?
I trembled, turning around to look at Han Zichuan.
“Why leave her alone in the house?” Han Zichuan seemed to be very surprised. His eyes blinked, and he gave an uncertain glance in Fang Hua’s direction. The two of them stared at each other for a while before he tacitly complied. Nothing more was said on the matter.
“I’ll go put things in order so you prepare the carriage, and we’ll leave in a bit.” Fang Hua finished, before closing the door and leaving. A splash of sunlight illuminate his form outside the rooms, making his figure hazy and indistinct.
There was something in my heart…
…slowing sinking towards the bottom.
“Brother Shao.” A pair of hands lightly rested on my shoulders. Han Zichuan drew closer and smiled. “This is just how Fang Hua is. When he decides on something, nothing can change his mind.”
“But you somehow convinced him to go to the palace to cure your father, didn’t you?”
His smile grew gloomy, but he didn’t reply, only saying in a soft tone, “I’ll come visit you often.”
What a joke…
Whether or not you visit has nothing to do with me.
The only person I want is yifu.
I pushed him aside and rushed out, leaving him standing in place. I didn’t linger to see his expression, because if I did…everything might have had a different result.
I held back the anger in my heart and returned to my room. I turned the wardrobe upside down to collect an armful of clothing, and went to look for Fang Hua, room by room.
He was standing by the window in the study, lost in thought. A cloth covered the low table, and on it were two very plain sets of robes. He didn’t see to care much when he saw me, but only started packing away the books in his arms.
“Yifu, allow me to do these.”
“I won’t trouble you.” His refusal was clean and final.
My emotions left me unable to utter a word, and I stood on one side, at a loss. I sadly went to his side and sprawled on the table, indignantly watching as he stuffed bottles and jars into the bag…those long, slender fingers lovingly caressing each one.
A few of the objects inside were his favorites, but there was nothing that belonged to me…
I pulled out a book, meaning to throw it away, but held myself back. I glanced at him. While he wasn’t paying attention, I took the chance to stuff one of my robes into his bundle.
“Why are you bothering to do this…?” he sighed. His eyes raised to look at me, chilly as moonlight like always. His hands pressed down against mine and he grabbed the robes, mercilessly hauling it back out.
I stubbornly grabbed the robes, as if my only hope laid in snatching it back. Although Fang Hua never said it, I knew he held tender affections for me. After living together for so many years, we were used to each other’s presence.
But why didn’t he want me now?
He was going to accompany Han Zichuan to the palace…
He was going to leave me all alone in this house.
Did he really not need me anymore?
There were countless things I still hadn’t thought over throughly, but I still had no self-confidence. He slowly tugged away the robes I was trying to hold in place. My heart ached with a burning pain.
Under his continued scrutiny, I grew more and more unsure of myself. A person had no energy to rebel against that firm gaze. His inflexibility quelled any attempts to stuff in my things. The robes were taken out, and the traveling bag secured. Throughout it all, he remained calm and expressionless. Even his eyes betrayed no emotions.
I’d long abandoned the idea of figuring everything out. I only felt that he was leaving me in very sore straits.
“Yifu…” I clutched at Fang Hua’s arm, my head bowed. “I just want to ask you one thing.”
“Have you already decided to abandon Shao’er?”
He remained silent, not speaking a word. My grip loosened, and I released his sleeves.
“Shao’er understands.” At this moment, my heart started aching again. It felt as if something was caught in my chest, as if just speaking would make my cry.
“Shao’er, no…you don’t understand.”
He gave me a concentrated look, eyes flooded with a soft light. “You’ve grown up now. You can’t always be like a child and follow your yifu around. Your internal energy isn’t bad, and you have a good grasp of poisons.” He slowly scooped up my hands, patting them a few times.
Those eyebrows rose with his smile as he tried to soothe me. “You’ve always listened to what I said. Yifu hopes that after you leave me, you’ll make a good name for yourself living in the jianghu.”
Muttering to himself, his eyes slowly looked over me. “The jianghu is free and unfettered, leisurely and carefree. It’s much more fun than the imperial palace.”
He stood before me now, nothing like the him of the past, speaking to me in such an earnest, fatherly tone.
He was my yifu…my foster father.
After all these years, I’d grown up. But he still looked as same as the day he picked me up from the rundown temple. The Heavens looked favorably upon him, and the passing years did nothing to leave a mark on his face…
Standing together now, we looked about the same age.
And yet, his heart was as hard as ever.
He said the jianghu was better than the palace, but he–but he knew–exactly how I felt.
The jianghu of a single person isn’t a jianghu at all.
Stricken, I stood dazed for a while.
“It’s settled. I’ll cure Han Zichuan’s father’s illness and then return here,” he smiled gently at me.
“Shao’er…will…” I turned my head away, half-facing him. My sentence came word by word. “…wait here for you.”
A gust of wind blew in from the window. He kept his smile. The dark red mole beneath his eye resembled a teardrop.
Osmanthus drifted in on the breeze to rest against his shoulder, carrying with it a sweet-smelling fragrance. I started to raise my hand and brush it off, but he moved away from me. Awkwardly, my hand withdrew, and I lowered my eyes in disappointment.
I kept feeling that after he entered the palace, he might not come back…
 jianghu (??) ?”rivers and lakes”–but that’s the literal definition. Of course we’re talking about the wide, wide world and all corners of the country, especially the *cough* lawlessareas that heroes travel to in wuxia/xianxia series. Battles! Treasure! Adventure! Beautiful wo–well, beautiful men for Shao’er, I guess~
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