The next day a decree came from the palace. It said that because of my marriage to the third prince, I need to go live in the palace and learn the etiquettes, until the day I marry. The emperor’s intention is very clear. As long as I live in the palace, he won’t need to be afraid that father Song will do something against him, when he’s outside fighting the rebels. Because if father Song did something, the first one to die will be me. What a perfect plan.
After the eunuch who delivered the decree left, I went into father Song’s room. He stared at the decree. His expression is unreadable. I squatted against his bedside and whispered: “Father, if you’re still alive, the emperor won’t do something to me. So you have to take good care of your body, live a long life and annoy the emperor to death”
Father Song sighed loudly. He raised his withered hand a gently put it on my head, touching me like when I was a kid.
“Our Yun Xiang has also grown up.”
I quietly accompanied father Song for a while. Until, when he couldn’t bear it anymore and wearily he fell asleep, did I leave the mansion. I climbed onto the red carriage and went into the palace.
I didn’t get to see the emperor. The head of the eunuch brought me to an empty room for concubines. On the other side of the wall must be the cold palace, because every night I can hear a woman’s sobbing. I find her crying beautiful, they sound like a lullaby. Every night I slept very soundly while listening to her crying.
The days in the palace are boring, but they went by quickly. It’s like the time when I was in Yue Lao’s temple. Then I was only worrying about how I can afford the good wine and lamenting about stingy Yue Lao. But now my mind always went back to that snowy night that Lu Hai Kong proposed to me. I blushed.
The day of the marriage is nearing. At the entrance of my place, there are now more guards patrolling. At night I couldn’t hear the women’s sobbing anymore. There’s only the sound of the guard’s footsteps, making me more depressed than when i was in the north.
It’s a snowy night again. I couldn’t sleep, so I put some clothes on and walked to the window. I opened the window and happened to see a man in black making the guards faint.
I blinked. The figure of that man seems awfully familiar to me.
I just opened my mouth, the man in black reflexively turned to the window. He stretched his hand and covered my mouth.
His face was covered with a black cloth, so the sound was a bit muffled. But I’ve known him for more than ten years, how can I not recognize him?
He listened for a moment and then pulled away the black cloth that was covering his face. A pair of black pupil reflected the lights of the snow.
“Yun Xiang, it’s me.”
I patted his hands to indicate that he can let go.
“En, I know.”
Lu Hai Kong really doesn’t want his life anymore. He as a rebel leader, how can he quietly sneak into the palace?
I didn’t hesitate and stretched out my hand. I squeezed his face really hard. A red color came to the surface of his face.
He made some “sisi”sound of pain, but he didn’t pull my hand away. He only said: “Yun Xiang, it hurts.”
“Lu Hai Kong.”
I looked at him for a moment before saying: “Don’t you want to live anymore?”
He also looked at me and said: “I want, but I also want you.”
It’s obviously an indecent sentence, but coming from him I didn’t hear any indecent meaning. It felt like a child full of positive energy, swearing that he’ll study hard.
I was silent so Lu Hai Kong said: “It’s not that I’ve lost my mind, nor is it that nobody tried to discouraged me….”
He paused for a moment. He looks like he’s remembering some terrible things. He drooped his eyes slightly and continued: “But when I heard you’ve been kidnapped…”
“Nobody kidnapped me,” I interrupted him. With and cold and clear voice I said: “I left you a letter. I was willing to come back.”
Lu Hai Kong didn’t look at me and continued to say: “The soldiers at the gate told me that you left on someone’s shoulder and that you were treated roughly…”
Seeing him with such a helpless look, I couldn’t bring myself to be heartless. I deeply inhaled the cold air and said: “Lu Hai Kong, I left you a letter. You knew that I left willingly.”
His lips trembled as if he wants to refute me. But for me and for himself, he tried to hide it. In the end he fell silent. He curved his lips and smiled without a trace of humor in his eyes, he said: “Yun Xiang, you don’t need to always be so honest.”
“Go back. Protect yourself well.”
He stood outside the window and looked at the ground.
“Knowing each other for sixteen years, accompanying each other in life and death for five years…Yun Xiang, I know you must have a reason.”
How can I tell him? What father Song did that year was self protection? I abandoning him, is for my father, his father’s murderer?
Living together for five years in the north, we didn’t mention a word from the past. Because in this lifetime my blood and his hatred are the most deadly friction between us.
I also curved my lips and smiled. I made a helpless appearance and said: “Lu Hai Kong, you don’t love me as a man.”
Lu Hai Kong hesitated. Slowly, his face turned green. He gritted his teeth and said: “Song Yun Xiang, even at this moment you don’t want to open yourself to me. You still don’t believe me!”
Outside I heard many footsteps coming. My heart tightened. I hurry Lu Hai Kong to go. Lu Hai Kong looked at me for a moment, with a face full of disappointment. Finally, he turned and gathered some internal energy. He disappeared in the darkness.
Just when he left, the imperial guards arrived. They saw the guards lying on the floor. One of them came to the window and asked: “Where’s is the rebel?”
“I didn’t see anyone.”
“Why are all the guards on the ground?”
I raised an eyebrow en grunted: “I was sleeping like a dead man. The sound of fighting woke me up.”
The chief knitted his eyebrows, barely bowed to me and said: “Miss Song, I beg your pardon, but I was ordered to search for the intruder.”
He finished his sentence without looking at me. He waved at the other guards and yelled: “Search!”
They kicked my door open and turned the place where I sleep into a mess.
I looked at them coldly when they left without finding anyone.
I closed the door, tidied the bed and lay on it. My mind kept going back to the words Lu Hai Kong said before he left: “Open myself? Believe in him? This brat grew up and keeps saying shit that nobody understands.
I hugged the blanket tightly and gave it a few punches. Little wife’s sorrow finally appeared!
I can almost see Emperor Li’s bearded face, shaking with laughter. In my heart, I hope that the mud horse1 will crush Emperor’s Li face. While pounding on the blanket I was laughing in my heart. You’ve seen enough, seen enough, seen enough!
Regardless how tangled my heart was the next few days, eventually the day of the marriage has come. A red carriage is waiting outside for me. A maid helped me do a heavy make up which I’ve never done before. She also put a heavy phoenix crown on me. I put on the most beautiful clothes that I’ve ever worn in this lifetime, going to marry a man whom’s face I’ve never seen. It’s said that this man’s mind has a little problem…
Third prince is the oldest among the living sons of the emperor. Even though he’s sick, but being someone from the royal family, a grand ceremony is still required.
My husband will come get me at the palace door. He was riding on a big horse and I was sitting in a grand carriage, going around half of the capital, going on the stage, declaring to the world and make an offering to the ancestors.
The me, who was sitting in the carriage, covered with a boring red veil, listening to the hoofs of the horses, suddenly got an inexplicable feeling in my heart.
Since the beginning of this lifetime, I knew that there will be a day like this. But I always thought that the man outside would be Lu Hai Kong. I always rebelled against it, but now I’m even more dissatisfied with the situation.
Really want to…stretch one leg out to let the man fall from the horse.
In the end, I restrained from this impulse. Until the red carriage stopped, the curtain of the carriage was opened and a man’s hand appeared under the veil. Watching this pair of fine white hand, I suddenly thought of the night Lu Hai Kong stood outside the window, covering my mouth with his hand. His hands were cold and felt rough. That child was born with a life as precious as the prince, but he has suffered so much pain.
I restrained the feelings in my heart and hold his hand. The red veil blocked my sight. I can only see my feet on the ground. The man beside me held me and kept asking: “What’s wife’s name, ah? Oh, wife’s surname is Song, Prime Minister Song’s daughter. What’s wife’s age, ah? Oh, wife’s age is a little old, already twenty. Wife does not want to get married? Oh, I can’t ask this question, hehe.”
I felt his mind is really not so good.
“Ladder,” the third prince yelled after a few steps. “How do I climb a ladder? Oh, the ladder needs to be climbed step by step. Above is the stage, need to be serious.”
My mouth twitched. I let him slowly guide me. After the last step on the ladder, he walked three steps and asked: “What do I need to do? Oh, bow to heaven, bow to ancestors, bow to parents.”
I totally don’t want to bother with him. So I just let him lead me like a corpse.
“Aiya, how come the prime minister is not here? Oh, Prime Minister Song died last night at home.”
A cold sweat entered my heart. I didn’t care and ripped the veil of my head. I also didn’t care about the place, grabbed the third prince clothes and sternly asked: “What did you say?!”
The third prince’s eyes swept across my face. I couldn’t ignore the gloat in his eyes. How can a fool live till now in the royal struggle? But right now those things have nothing to do with me. I was so angry that my eyes became red. I glared at the third prince and said word by word: “What, did, you, say?”
“What did I say? Oh, prime minister Song Qin Wen died, Xian Fu Miss doesn’t have any backing anymore.”
My body turned soft. I let go of him. Not long ago I had touched father Song’s hands and he affectionately caresssed my head. Life and death are really too easy in the human realm. While in trance I remembered the words drunken Yue Lao used to say “mortals are helpless, immortals have no feelings.”
All the noise, chaos and people in front disappeared in front of me. I stood there and looked up at the sky. I yelled: “你大爷的2!”
Suddenly someone grabbed my hand really hard. He bent my hands to my back. I involuntarily bent down in pain. A sound at my ear made me come back to reality. A guard shouted at my ear: “Fearless! You dare to beat the third prince!”
I lifted my head and glared at the guards. Several guards, protecting the third prince, took a few steps back. The third prince touched his neck with an arrogant face. I hated him so much, but I was so helpless. Today, I, a cloud fairy am being bullied by a few mortals. This feeling is really not good.
The next instant, came a noise. I haven’t understood the situation yet, when the two guards holding my hands, tumbled to the ground with a “plop”sound.
I was still surprised, when an arm tightly holds my waist.
The man holding me unleashed his sword. Guards were falling to the ground. I was shocked. When he stopped for a moment I fiercely pushed him. I angrily shouted: “You fucking stupid idiot! Is this a place you should come to?!”
Lu Hai Kong took a step back. He steadied his body. He looked at me with one red eye.
“I’m a fucking stupid idiot!”
In the north Lu Hai Kong learned a lot of curse words. Occasionally I would hear his rough voice cursing, while I was passing the training fields. But to me he was always a gentleman. He never even raised his voice against me.
Today, he lost his cool.
I don’t know from where a few people in black appeared. They made a group fighting with the guards. On the stage there weren’t many guards left. Lu Hai Kong killed a few. The remaining ones were at the third prince side. They did not easily come forward. They just kept guarding the third prince. I and Lu Hai Kong began to yell at each other on this stage.
“I don’t want you to save me! Go away!”
“I’ve decided to save you,” Lu Hai Kong yelled. “Do not say those shitty excuses again! Love between man and woman? Love between husband and wife? What if I don’t understand that shit? I only know that if you’re marrying him willingly today, I would immediately leave. If you can live happily and well, I would not say a word. But will you? Song Yun Xiang, can you swear that you’ll live happily?! If you can……”
His voice stopped. He touched my cheeks with his fingertips. His rough fingers, that didn’t belong to his age, are prove of his hard life.
Lu Hai Kong said hoarsely: “If you can, why the fucking hell are you crying?”
“How… the fucking hell would I know why I’m crying.”
I thought for a long time, looking through countless of words: Excuses, bratty words, denying words.
But all those words came to my lips and became: “Father passed away…”
Lu Hai Kong was a bit startled. He put his hands on my head. A bit unaccustomed he caressed my head and said comfortingly: “Don’t cry.”
His face was a shade paler and he lowered his voice: “Yun Xiang, we’ll talk when we go back.”
I was still in shock, but Lu Hai Kong grabbed my waist without any explanation and moved rapidly to the ground below the stage. He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. All the people in black began to withdraw from the fight.
The strange thing is that there are more and more guards. It felt really strange. Now that father Song is gone, I don’t know how pleased the emperor is. I and the third prince are now useless. He could’ve just ordered me to mourn for three years. But the emperor didn’t let a word get away about my father’s death. He still carried on with this marriage. Since he is so insistent on carrying it, he must’ve a good reason.
Now it seems that the emperor already guessed that Lu Hai Kong will come. And Lu Hai Kong must’ve known that if he appeared, it’ll be really dangerous….
I hold onto Lu Hai Kong’s neck, looking at his side profile. Suddenly I thought with a bit of unwillingness: Why do I only have one lifetime with him?
Suddenly something flashed brightly before my eyes. I turned my head to look. The third prince pushed his guards away and stood out.
I said to Lu Hai Kong: “I can’t breath holding like this. Lu Hai Kong, piggyback me.”
Lu Hai Kong’s arm used a little strength. In a blink of eye, I was on his back. I wondered: “What sort of Kung Fu is this?”
I coughed and cleared my throat: “The Kung Fu is very convenient for moving things.”
Lu Hai Kong said softly: “Yun Xiang, let’s talk when we’re out of the capital.”
I nodded: “Alright.”
I rested my head on his shoulder. Suddenly I remembered that there was one time when Lu Hai Kong was a kid, he was tired of playing at Xiang Fu and he wanted me to piggyback him home. At that time I just wanted to leave him there, but he cried so sadly. I reluctantly piggyback him home. It was sunset at that time. The general’s mansion and Xiang Fu is just a few steps from each other, but he fell asleep on my shoulder.
Now the sun is shining brightly, but I was distracted to see what the sunlight is like. I closed my eyes and gently said: “So, being carried by someone is so comfortable. No wonder you can fall asleep.”
My body felt a bit sore. I hold onto his neck. I kept holding and let Lu Hai Kong do the running. His breath is becoming more rapid. He yelled: “Yun Xiang, hold tighter!”
“En,” I answered. I used all my strength to cling onto his neck. We’re not out of the capital yet. It’s still not safe, so I can’t let go.
Although it was somewhat vague, but I still saw Emperor Li scratching his ear before the bookshelf anxiously: “It’s not the same, ah! It’s not the same as what I wrote! Why did the wrong person die?”
I grinned. Hmpf, big bearded Li, you thought I was easy to bully? You want Lu Hai Kong to die before me? If I’ve also drank the soup of oblivion, my life after his death will be really unhappy. I would’ve been begging for death. But now he won’t die. He still has a long life to live and many wonderful things to experience. Not as one of Chu Kong’s reincarnation, but as Lu Hai Kong, a real living person, he will have a wonderful life.
I don’t how much time has passed. I felt someone patting my face.
“Yun Xiang? Yun Xiang….”
His voice was sensual, with a third of hoarseness.
I opened my eyes and saw that it was snowing. Lu Hai Kong’s face was above me. His hair was full of snow, making him look like an old man.
“Aiya, it’s snowing.”
I’ve a sore throat, but surprisingly my spirit felt really full, I was feeling very light, lighter than when I was a cloud spirit.
Lu Hai Kong hugged me and whispered: “Don’t be afraid, we’ll go look for a physician. They can heal you.”
Hearing him say this, I remembered that when we were leaving the stage, the third prince shot an arrow. It went right into my back. I don’t need to guess to know that it has poison on it. Imperial poison, how can anyone just cure it?
I’m now in such high spirits, must be…because I’m going back.
“Lu Hai Kong, my father did you wrong. Now, I’m paying back for him.”
“Song Yun Xiang, you’ve never owed me anything.”
He gritted his teeth and say: “With what will you be paying back?”
“Ah, this is good, “I smiled. “We’ve settled it for now. In the future, we won’t own each other anything.”
I narrowed my eyes and saw the soul collectors coming from afar.
“Lu Hai Kong, in your next life don’t run into me anymore…”
I haven’t e finished speaking, when he bent closer to me. I was appalled. I felt his warm lips on my cold lips. But now he’s so close, I couldn’t see his face. I only felt salty water drop into my mouth, letting my lips and teeth felt bitter.
For the time being, I didn’t want to care if his behavior is indecent. I only felt that my heart is also aching. He spoke against my lips: “In the next lifetime, next next lifetime, I’ll run into you.”
I smiled bitterly: “Don’t say that. You’ll regret it…”
After this lifetime is over, I will be reincarnated earlier. Lu Hai Kong surely won’t find me after his death. Then he’ll turn back into Chu Kong. After regaining his memories, he probably won’t want to come find me anymore……
From now on we won’t be meeting again. Our wrong beginning will end.
“You need to finish this lifetime well. Strive to live on.”
I closed my eyes and smiled: “I’ll go first.”
My soul left my body. I was immediately caught by the soul collectors. They kept bickering and leading me to the road to the nether world.
Suddenly my heart has a strange feeling like heartache. I looked back and saw Lu Hai Kong holding the cold body closely. He is crying like a child.
This concludes the first lifetime. Eventhough this isn’t my favorite lifetime, after translating for a month and half, it felt sad to part with it.
- 草泥马(cǎonímǎ, mud horse): It is a play on the words cào nǐ mā (肏你妈), literally, “fuck your mother”
- 你大爷的 ( Nǐ dàyé de), this is a curse word. I don’t know the exact meaning, but think is “damn you”. So she’s cursing at Emperor Li.