Avoiding the guards’ eyes, I climbed the backyard wall. After taking a circuitous route, I was finally at the general’s backdoor. The general’s mansion was ablaze. Beside the sound of the fire, there was only deep silence.
I stared at the backdoor for a long time. If I went in and came face-to-face with a killer, not only would I not be able to collect Lu Hai Kong’s body, but I would also be giving up my life. It was not worth it.
My thoughts took a turn, and I remembered that at the east of the general’s mansion, there was a doghole. That place was hidden. Even ifthere were still killers in there, they wouldn’t find me.
It was just that after accepting human ideology all these years, I felt that crawling through a doghole was not a glorious thing. I didn’t even know if my body could still pass through the doghole anymore.
But when I found the doghole, I discovered that there was already someone in the doghole. The one whom I wanted to collect the corpse of, Lu Hai Kong. Half of his body was outside the wall while the other half was still inside the wall. I didn’t feel embarrassed and mused, “It seems that I really can get past the doghole.”
Now was not the right time, however, to express my feelings.
When Lu Hai Kong heard my voice, he slowly raised his head. His always clean face was bloodstained. His always translucent eyes were now like dust, a vast gray. He absent-minded stared at me without any emotion, like a puppet.
I knelt down. In the flickering firelight, I saw that a side of his right eye had been burned. I couldn’t differentiate between the whites and the eyeball. It was completely muddy.
He was stuck in the doghole and made such a ridiculous sight. But I couldn’t find it amusing.
I stuck my hand out, yet something made me hesitate to touch him.
“Lu Hai Kong.”
He didn’t respond. He was only blankly staring at me. I blinked. I didn’t know why my heart hurt. I repressed that feeling and gently poked his forehead.
“Are you still alive?”
His voice was weak.
“I’m still alive…”
It didn’t sound like an answer, more like a question he was asking me.
The inexplicable feeling in my heart grew stronger. I couldn’t help but touch his head. With neither a light nor heavy touch, I patted his head. His hair felt sticky. I guessed that he must’ve escaped from a pool of blood. Losing your family overnight was a cruel thing for a ten year-old.
“I’m still alive.”
I stared at him. His black left eye slowly reflected my image, and his right eye…I’m afraid that he could never use it again.
He looked at me for a moment before asking, “Did you come here to save me?”
“Originally, I came to find your corpse.”
His eyes darkened, and he nodded.
“But now I’m here to save you.”
I grabbed his hand and asked, “Are you tightly stuck?”
He seemed to not dare to say a word, merely staring blankly at me. Before he could say anything, I felt his body being pulled back inside. It seemed like on the other side of the wall, someone was pulling at Lu Hai Kong’s legs, dragging him back inside. Lu Hai Kong’s eyes widened as he looked at me. He was so scared that he couldn’t speak.
I hugged him tightly, not letting go. On the other side of the wall, someone said: “There’s someone outside helping him.”
“Let’s cut his legs so he’ll never be able to escape again.”
There were still two people on the other side of the wall! They actually wanted to slice off Lu Hai Kong’s legs. My heart quivered. I suddenly got an idea.
“Father! Quickly bring the guards of the prime minister’s mansion. The killer inside wants to cut Lu Hai Kong’s legs.”
“It’s the prime minister’s daughter.”
“That ruckus causing devil? The two killers were quiet for some time before one of them said, “Withdraw!”
Victory came too sudden. I didn’t think that my name would be more useful than my father’s name. After suppressing a chuckle, my face darkened again… The killers were so afraid of me. What image do I have in the commoner’s hearts?
There was no more time to think. I ruthlessly tugged at Lu Hai Kong. I grabbed his hand and dragged him in the direction of the prime minister’s mansion.
“For now, you can go hide at my place.”
Lu Hai Kong stopped walking. In the smoky air, he quietly said, “Yun Xiang, I can’t go to the prime minister’s mansion.”
“Why? Are you afraid that my father won’t protect you?”
Lu Hai Kong looked at the ground and didn’t answer me. At the moment, he was clearly a dirty kid, but strangely, I felt that his mind was more complicated than mine, which also had the memories of a hundred years of living as a cloud spirit.
He was silent for a long time before saying, “Yun Xiang, I’m going to go outside of the capital…only outside…need to go outside.”
He spoke with an extremely strong voice. He must be very determined. I intuitively felt that he was hiding many things. I also felt that from this moment forward, Lu Hai Kong’s life would change. Moreover, I also felt that my time to choose had come. Go back to the prime minister’s manion or go with Lu Hai Kong and outside of the capital? I looked up at the sky. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling.
Emperor Li, so you’ve been waiting here for me! If I had drank the soup of oblivion, I would’ve been a normal young miss of the prime minister in this life. If Lu Hai Kong wasn’t delayed by me for five years in the Nether World, he would now be the same age as me. Two people who were engaged, falling in love with each other. Miss of the prime minister’s mansion doesn’t have the heart to leave the General’s young master full of hatred and will go with him to the north. She would willingly abandoned her comfortable life to follow the general’s young master. So the first act of the play ‘little wife chasing husband’ will be staged like this, at this bad time.
Lu Hai Kong must’ve thought too much after seeing my sorrowful look. He turned and began walking in the opposite direction.
“Yun Xiang, till we meet again.”
Hearing a ten year-old say such a deep sentence after a traumatic event, my heart skipped a beat. I scratched my head irritably and muttered softly, “Alright, alright. I admit defeat. I’ll not change fate again. Besides, I need to avoid having to receive punishment again after I go back.”
But it didn’t seem filial if I just left. So I picked up a burned wood and casually wrote on the wall: Father, your daughter eloped with a gentleman. Don’t lose spirit and take care of your body.
After I finished writing, I didn’t care whether or not father Song found this secluded doghole with the words above. I threw away the wood and ran to catch up with Lu Hai Kong. I ran till I was in front of him. I bent over a little and said, “You walk too slowly. After a while, the killer will start chasing us. Come on, I’ll piggyback you.”
The person behind me didn’t move. I turned around and saw him looking at me with a horrified expression. I wondered why. “Come ah.”
I grinned. “Young man, let’s elope.”
He didn’t move, and I didn’t urge him. Finally, he stretched his hands forward and hugged me. “Thank you…”
His thin body was trembling a little. At this time, I couldn’t help but twitch my mouth. “Elopement is fine, and embracing is fine. Brat, don’t take advantage of me in this situation. Watch where you’re putting your hands.”
He felt embarrassed. He slowly placed his hands on my shoulder and wrapped them around my neck. I didn’t care anymore, and began walking with him on my back. Lu Hai Kong must have been tired. With his head resting on my shoulder, he mumbled, “Yun Xiang protected me. In the future, I’ll protect Yun Xiang.”
His words reminded me of what happened a decade ago. The General’s wife had looked at the infant Lu Hai Kong, her gaze as gentle as sunlight. She had said that I was older than him. At the moment, I would protect him. In the future, he would protect me…
I turned and looked at the General’s mansion, which was in flames. Suddenly, I realized that there would no longer be anyone to look at Lu Hai Kong with such a gentle gaze anymore.
The gods had an eternal life. They didn’t understand the hardship of parting, the pain of death. I had a god’s point of view; this was a normal instance of life, yet I was sentimental. But to mortals, losing meant losing.
This life or eternal life, no one could completely repeat his life, even if it was himself.
I suddenly felt that something was strange. I was indifferent to death, but the Lu Hai Kong who wasn’t crying or causing trouble was a bit unusual. I turned my head and glanced at the boy on my shoulder with his eyes closed… Maybe even for the rest of his life, I still wouldn’t understand Lu Hai Kong’s pain from tonight.
The moment the gates opened, I took Lu Hai Kong outside the capital. After leaving the capital for half a day, my brain finally realized what I didn’t do right the night before.
“Song… my father— It looks like I dragged him into a hole.”
I scratched my head and said to Lu Hai Kong, “Last night, I was impatient to save you and ended up putting my father in trouble. What I did isn’t right.”
Seeing my guilty face, Lu Hai Kong revealed a really shocked face.
“Yun Xiang, you don’t know anything. That’s why you dare to say that!”
Lu Hai Kong continued to be stunned before he shook his head. In his sole remaining eye, I saw a mixture of emotions, a third of helplessness, a third ridicule, and many more things that I didn’t understand. He hung his head and took a bite of his bun. Vaguely, he said, “Nothing, nothing will happen to prime minister Song.”
This brat said that so assuredly. My heart felt lighter, although I still didn’t understand what had happened in court.
Lu Hai Kong and I went to the north. After half a month, suddenly, news came from the capital that the emperor had died. The new emperor had already ascended the throne. Surprisingly, the new emperor was not the crown prince, but the crown prince’s uncle, the previous emperor’s brother, the prince of first rank Zhi Hou .
Half of the ministers have been removed. The powerful ones had been removed, exiled to their hometowns, or sentenced to death. The only one who was still sitting tightly in his spot was my father, the prime minister Song Qin Wen. The first one in court who bowed to the new emperor was also my father, Song Qin Wen.
At that time, I had been sitting with Lu Hai Kong at a roadside stall, resting and drinking tea. Beside us, there had been people who looked like scholars. They had kept sighing.
I didn’t understand their concern for the fate of their lives, but now I understood the mystery behind the fire at the General’s mansion.
Lu Hai Kong was silently drinking tea while I silently sorted my thoughts. My father, General Lu, and the old emperor had been three good friends. After some years, my father and the emperor’s brother had become even better friends. He had not been as fond of his two other friends anymore.
The old emperor had become sick. His brother wanted to be the emperor. My father had favored the emperor’s younger brother, but the general had supported the blood of the old emperor, the crown prince Zhi Chi. That was why the general’s mansion had needed to be burned. That was why Lu Hai Kong hadn’t even worried over my words—that I would cause trouble for father Song—because destroying their family had been planned by my father.
My appearance had been a surprise to everyone. That was why the two killers had left in a hurry. They hadn’t afraid of me. They had only wanted to go back and report to my father. That was why Lu Hai Kong had asked me, “Did you come to save me?”
So that was why Lu Hai Kong had been surprised when I had said that I would bring trouble for my father. That was why we had been able to smoothly leave through the gate. The smooth journey all the way till now must have been because my father had been protecting us.
After all, I was still his daughter. After all, he had watched Lu Hai Kong grow up. And after all…having to plot against an old friend, his heart would have been uneasy. Intentionally letting Lu Hai Kong go must have been because of my father’s soft heart.
Staring at him quietly drinking tea, I thought back to that night and recalled all his actions. I released a long sigh.
The former Lu Hai Kong had been too young, so he was ignorant, but now he was slowly beginning to understand things and getting smarter, getting calmer. After experiencing such misfortune, I was afraid that he would understand things more deeply now……
A thought passed through my head. I really wanted to pluck out emperor Li’s beard hair by hair. If today’s scene had changed, it would have been so miserable; the prime minister’s miss would follow the full-of-hatred young master. On one hand, the young master loved the the prime minister’s miss. On the other hand, because of her father’s action towards the general, he would hate her. Love and hate at the same time. He would sometimes be warm and sometimes be cold towards the prime minister’s miss. The prime minister’s miss would lead a life of oppressive feelings, but her heart would still firmly be chasing young master.
‘Little wife struggling to chase husband’ second act, without a warning, would be staged like this.
Emperor Li, you dare throw more pots of blood! In front of your home, there must be many dead dogs now! Where did you get such cheap and useless dog blood! How many more miserable scenes will be waiting for me on the road to the north?!
- Dog blood means very dramatic in Chinese
Besides…in the state that I was now and the way I and Lu Hai Kong were getting along, would we be able to meet emperor Li’s particular taste?
Lu Hai Kong had finished drinking tea and looked up at me. “I’m finished resting.”
I looked at the vast grayness of his right eye and patted his head. “Let’s go.”
Worrying was useless, as the future would nevertheless come. Compared to me, this child had a bigger burden. He was so brave. I couldn’t lose to him.