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The door was still swinging lightly on its hinges, but the person was gone. I remained dazed for a while before looking down and viciously pinched myself. The pain was tremendous…
There was no mistake. That Immortal-like being really existed, and his name was Fang Hua.
Now that I was more clear-headed, my first thing upon becoming alert was to feel my own body. I slipped beneath the covers and looked left and right, even opening up my robes for inspection. Tsk, my body didn’t feel pained, itchy, or sore…
Some assassin had sneak-attacked me in the palace, then did a poor job of carrying me out and jolting me all this way. Yet I didn’t even have any bruises. Did someone give me medicine already, or was I innately blessed with a sturdy body? Or perhaps the assassin had no intentions of harming me at all and took measures to protect me…
But why did he leave me outside Fang Hua’s house?
It was really weird. I stuck my head out of the covers and took a long breath. The room was very quiet, and that lousy bird had flew away as well. I stayed on the bed and straightened out my messy robes, looking around the room. There were bamboo curtains, a landscape painting on a wall, accented with straight and forceful written words that gave it a certain charm. It seems like the owner of the house had made it himself with bamboo, and the feeling against my hands was…very agreeable. The workmanship was meticulous as well.
Rubbing my eyes, I casually put on my shoes and sat on a chair, pouring myself a cup of water to drink. It was cool and refreshing spring water that carried a hint of sweetness. This cup was made from a thick bamboo tube, extremely smooth to the touch. Someone had faintly carved ‘Fang Hua’ into the surface, and my lips puckered at the sight. Resting my head on my hands, I stuck my legs up in the air and dangled in my chair, eyes spinning.
Everything here was good, but it lacked food.
This Fang Hua, an Immortal-like man who looked as beautiful as a flower, wasn’t planning to starve me, right?
I pouted, hands over my empty stomach as I shifted to the door and pulled it open with both hands. Glittering sunlight shone down in its radiance to saturate my entire body. It was extremely warm and bright enough to make it difficult to open my eyes. Soft rustling accompanied a sudden burst of cool wind.
It carried with it the sound of a child’s voice.
I shook my head to clear my eyes, but the walkway before me was empty. Still, I hadn’t walked more than a few steps before my feet started to pivot, and my head grew dizzy. I supported myself with the wall to try and invigorate myself, eyes narrowing as a few figures appeared on the walkway and grew clearer.
A preteen youth had two cooked eggs stuffed in his shirt, rubbing his hands as he blew on them. “Come help take these off me.”
The other walked leisurely in front of him, not even bothering to look back. “How come?”
“Because I cooked the eggs, started the fire, and hid the evidence from your yifu. You want to eat them just like this?”
“Of course not,” the thinner and more emaciated of the two stopped, pausing before speaking valiantly. “You have to peel the skin off for me before I eat it.”
“Y…y-you, don’t be too over the top.” the egg-holder was angry enough to rush up, his face delicate and pretty, exactly like a younger copy of the current emperor.
“You cooked the stolen eggs and lit the fire, so the blame is still on you…” the other gave him a habitually leisurely glance, a toothy smile lighting up that filthy, dark face. The teeth were very white. “I’ll go tell yifu right now.”
“I’ll peel it, I’ll peel it. Isn’t that enough?” the little emperor was completely dejected. When he got no reaction from pulling the other’s sleeve, he set his heart and stomped the ground. “At the worst, I’ll give them both to you.”
“Peel,” the infuriating voice drifted over.
The other obediently lowered his head and peeled as told. One ate the eggs in satisfaction while the other wore a long face, but a smile tugged at his lips as if he took pleasure in it.
I gave a snort, feeling as if I’d seen this familiar scene somewhere before. Yet in the space of a blink, the air around me flashed, and the two youths disappeared from the walkway. My mind suddenly buzzed, and I hastily walked to where they’d been before. When I looked down, there wasn’t even the trace of eggshells from before.
Did I started hallucinating from hunger?
The wind blew gently, rustling the bamboo forest. I wandered about in a circle before raising a fist to pound my head. How evil. Looks like I was really starving to the limit. Now the most pressing matter was to fill my stomach.
I sucked in a breath, slowing turning around to look at the different rooms. I remained still for a while before intuition had me pushing open a certain door and peeking inside. Hey, what do you know…I guessed right.
I’m crying, crying tears of joy.
Slipping into the kitchen, I lifted the lid of a cooking pot to reveal…nothing. My hand felt inside. Not only was there no oil, but even a layer of dust had settled on my hands. My eyebrows quivered, and I squatted down to take a look.
Great, there wasn’t even a fire for the stove.
Cruelty even extended this far… That Immortal-like man, was he really planning to starve me to death? I’d always been a person who loved to eat, and I ate a lot. In the palace, I’d never had to suffer this way. If I had a choice of dying, I’d never choose to starve to death.
Time was pressing as I searched the entire room for food, even opening up the cabinets in my hunt. Besides two or three broken bowls with missing pieces, there was nothing inside. What did Fang Hua usually eat? Tears…
My footsteps kept walking until I paused to look around suspiciously. Raising my head, my nose sniffed the air until it caught the miraculous scent of something delicious. Holding back my drool, I couldn’t help but involuntarily follow the scent, turning left around a corner before I bumped into a tall figure standing before a building.
He seemed to have been waiting for me, and caught me as we bumped. This time, I lifted my head to give him a smile that wasn’t quite a smile, a chill creeping up my back as my scalp turned numb.
This man’s face was enough to bring calamity to the country and its people with his beauty. Add that to the mole by his eye and he was even more seductive. If he didn’t smile, he was like an Immortal, but one smile could cause more evil than an evildoer.
“Have you seen enough?” One of his hands held my waist in an embrace as his eyebrows raised slightly, before he lowered his head to muffle another cough.
…that expression, what was he embarrassed about?
I opened my eyes wide to blatantly stare at him before realizing our current situation was inappropriate. Slowly, I cupped my hands in a greeting. “Just now I’ve offended you.” I backed away quite a few steps, but couldn’t help shooting him a glance again.
He gave a start before his eyes curved into crescents. Both eyes and eyebrows seemed to suggest he was smiling.
Only after I backed away did my mind clear up. The one who’d held me in the arms and madly ate tofu behind my back, why was I…
Fang Hua lowered his head to smile and caught me in place. Time seemed to stop. He didn’t speak, nor did I have anything to say. I gave him a dull look, but it wasn’t until my line of sight drifted down that I noticed something in his hand…a bowl resting in his palm.
To tell you the truth, his looks were more outstanding than mine. His upper robes were violet and very elegant. Even if he was holding a paltry bowl, a beautiful person would always have the grace of a beautiful person. The hand holding the bowl had long, tapered fingers like uncut jade that looked even fairer and more clear against the porcelain.
I raised my head and sniffed. What was he holding in his hand?
Fang Hua looked at me with a smile, body shifting to leave open a space. Conveniently enough, it gave me unimpeded vision to a table in an inner room filled with warm dishes and white rice. My grateful amazement came from being unexpectedly rescued from a desperate situation. After that flash of joy, reason came in to hold back my impulses, and I gave him a doubtful look before shrinking back like a defensive hedgehog.
It was very simple…
This person held a strange attitude towards me. He didn’t treat me coldly, or frown and scowl while singularly facing his rival in love. Instead, he was kind and genial. This room was even stranger. At times, unreal images would spring from within, and my eyes rested on that steaming hot bowl after I couldn’t take it anymore…
I swallowed. So fragrant…it whetted my appetite even more than the imperial kitchens, but there was no promise he didn’t add something inside.
You should be guarded in the outside world.
“I haven’t cooked in a while, so I don’t know if it’s to your tastes,” he said simply, rolling back his sleeves to offer me the bowl in his hand. I had no way to retreat, but fell on my butt on the threshold of the door, the pain jarring. A smile split his features, making me even more nervous.
Even the curve of his lips was strange.
“You’re always muddle-headed like this.” He supported me to my feet, helping me lean against the door while bending down to wipe away the dust that had settled onto my person. My eyebrows arched up high.
W…w-what was he doing, I’m afraid…
He hadn’t tied up his hair, and the strands fell like a waterfall across his shoulders. A few threads of sunlight broke through the windows to shone on him. They actually favored such a cold and cheerless person. Flustered, I shifted my eyes until they rested on the food at the table.
If I remembered correctly, when I snuck into the kitchen the pots and bowls were all covered in dust. That state of affairs was so wretched that I didn’t have the heart to look anymore. The cold stove didn’t seem to have a fire in it before, or any signs of being used to cook things. Then…where did these dishes come from?
Was it possible that this man knew sorcery?!
“What’s wrong? Your face is so pale, do you feel unwell somewhere?” He showed such care towards me. When he raised his hand, he didn’t forget how he’d dusted me off with his sleeves, and touched the bowl again.
It gave me a chill…
“Did you cook all these personally in the kitchens?”
I raised my head, peering at his benevolent expression, the smile like someone preparing to help the needy and deliver all creatures from torment. I thought it was very suspicious. Was this person here to give me an upset stomach with his food sorcery, or trying to poison me with secret pills?
Someone who was unaccountably solicitous usually hid evil intentions.
As a result, I circled around him to assess and appraise him anew. I wasn’t close with him and upon investigation into the past…Little Li said I’d always served close by his side. While he was in the Cold Palace, I’d stolen away the emperor and caused a bit of drama before dumping him and slipping away. No one had ever made any inquiries despite his long stay in the Cold Palace. More or less, I was probably to blame.
He ought to despise me, but now he stood before me with chopsticks and bowl in hand, seemingly at a loss. I decide to wait and see. This Lord Hua, ever since I woke up…he’d acted unnaturally odd. As for the food he’d cooked personally…should or shouldn’t I eat it?
Kindness deserved a serious investigation.
Actually, I had a personality that like gentleness and feared severity. To put it in vulgar terms, I was base and cheap. When I wasn’t hungry, or when I was hungry but afraid to eat, these two types of people had two completely different ways of dealing with me.
If it was the emperor, he’d pretend not to hear all my rejections and feed me from the bowl. The more I refused, the happier he’d be to feed me. Afterward, he’d hold me in his arms and stroke here and there until I was free from worries and only half as angry. This was akin to hitting me with an impressive stick first, then making a show of conciliation to bring things under control, very similar to how he’d wrangle control with his vassals.
But the Fang Hua before me was much softer. He’d set the bowl of rice aside and sat down to look at me before walking off. Somehow he returned with a big bowl of braised meat, feeling greatly pleased as he held it towards me. When I didn’t take it, he turned back to wash the chopsticks with boiling water before silently setting everything before me.
I gave it a look. It smelled completely delicious, and was even meat…
No matter how I tried to contain myself, it was hard to fight my appetite. Immediately, I went into a rapture and stopped worrying about too many things. Like a self-important elder, I rolled up my sleeves and impatiently picked up a mouthful. Before I stuffed it into my mouth, the last thread of rational thought woke me up. I raised my eyebrows and peered at him, before putting my piece in his plate.
…remained leaning over from there, concentrated on looking at me.
I motioned him to eat it.
He remained as before.
I say…if he didn’t eat it, how could I dare to?
Thus, I set down the chopsticks and copied the emperor, waving my hand indifferently like telling Little Li to take the food away. This wasn’t the palace, so of course there was no Little Li. Neither could I pretend to be indifferent because I really was very hungry.
As a result, Fang Hua was stupefied. I felt dejected. After a long while, I huddled up on the chair and hugged my legs while he stared at me and I stared at the rich, oily meat.
Purify one’s heart and reduce the desires.
Protect against desire, protect against desire…
He seemed extremely unconvinced as he glanced at me. “Not eating?”
I shook my head.
He gave a doubtful interjection before standing up wordlessly, not giving me a glance before carrying away the meat and dumping it into the bamboo forest. I could only look dully towards his back.
While I was hanging my head to fantasize about creating more red braised pork, Fang Hua turned back from the forest and carefully withdrew an oil-paper package wrapped around a savory baked sweet potato.
After handing it over, he created some distance between us, lying on a chair as he rested a chin on his arms with a smile and raised eyebrows. This expression would become one of my favorites in the future, but to a person with no memories, it was only extremely horrifying.
Thus, I carefully pinched off a piece of sweet potato and held it by his mouth. His brows pressed until they were almost touching, expression intent of fearfully avoiding the morsel. I think anyone who saw his reaction would fear whatever food he offered…
As a result, I stayed hungry for an entire day despite the sight of food.
What’s the concept of starving for an entire day? It was using a large ladle of cold well water to fill the burning pain in your stomach until it stopped hurting. Even walking felt more like floating, and the inside of the stomach sloshed with water.
Meanwhile, Fang Hua had disappeared to who-knows-where. I felt my stomach as I wobbled to the outhouse. After squatting down…I couldn’t get back up. This feeling was familiar: sore thighs, sharp pain in the stomach. My brows furrowed as I glanced down. Then my hand felt there, and great…
A handful of blood.
I stared before looking towards my trouser pocket, hey…
Who helped me put a layer of cloth there?
There was no one else in this house but me, Fang Hua, and a lousy bird. He really had the heart of a Bodhisattva who found pleasure in helping others.
…looks like he’d seen through me.
I dizzily lifted my pants, head lowered as I used the door to support me and walk out. After figuring out what was the matter, my body felt a lot better. A glance around revealed no water in sight, so I could only wipe my hand on my robes before accidentally spotting a stunned Fang Hua looking at me from below a tree.
I instantly grew vigilant, body straightening like a ramrod as my legs clamped together. With these excellent guarding preparations, I finally propped my hand against the tree and played the part of a profound thinker, eyebrows knitted. “Do you need anything?”
I lifted my eyes to look. He seemed constrained and took a while before fishing out a proper cloth pad from behind his back, fingers shaking as he held it in his hands. I gave a careless look and said simply, “What’s this thing?”
“I guessed that you’d need this, so I prepared it for you.”
I nodded and he happily handed it over, but I didn’t take it. Instead, I casually took his robes to wipe my hands. He shook, but endured it without avoiding me… Heaven knew what he was thinking, chances are he probably wanted to castrate me. My blood had dirtied his violet robes, yet he still looked at me with the same sincere expression as before. I gave him a frank look in return, not speaking.
The base of his ears slowly grew red as he spoke. “I made a record that it’d come today, but I didn’t expect to pick you up from my doorstep, or that you’d even return…so I didn’t have time to prepare anything.”
That’s right, my period had come.
But how would he know? Not to mention, this record of his had other miscellaneous things, he sure had free time…wait, it couldn’t have been that while I was in the palace…sweats, this previous Master of mine sure was intimate, he even took the trouble to track little things like this for his servants.
“I learned how to tie these things so they won’t fall off, I can help you.”
I pushed away his hands. “No need.”
Seeing his desolate expression, my heart felt a little strange, so I added another line. “Much thanks.”
He didn’t speak, and I walked off. I didn’t stop until I was far away, but couldn’t stop from looking behind me. A long way off, his form stood slim and graceful beneath the tree. The expression on his face…
How to say it, it was indescribable. More miserable than simple loneliness, and somewhat out of sorts.
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