Ooof, this chapter hurts. This chapter of Yun Zhong Ge really really hurts. I think this kind of heartbreak cuts to the core even worse than what Yu Er must’ve felt when Jiu Ye was rejecting her over and over again. Yun Ge finally learns the truth about Meng Jue, and then sees with her own eyes a moment that can’t ever be erased. I can say Meng Jue brought it all on himself, but I adore his complicated personality and multitude of issues that I know sometimes he can’t be honest with himself. And perhaps he doesn’t yet know what he really wants, but like his adoptive father Jiu Ye learned the hard way, sometimes a split second action can have a lifetime of consequences. We’re one chapter away from the end of volume 1, so hold on to your hats.
Chapter 17: A Flower Matter
Liu Bing Yi and Meng Jue sat before a Go board but neither was playing. Liu Bing Yi placed white pieces all around the center of the board, and then placed a lone black piece right in the middle. One single black piece surrounded by white pieces, with seemingly no chance of escape.
Meng Jue laughed “The outer ring is the Yu Lin Army, the inner ring is the Imperial Army. Both are now controlled by Huo Guang.”
Liu Bing Yi then took the black pieces and started placing it around the border, signifying the royal forces currently set patrolling the borders. While there are white pieces here and there, now it appeared the black pieces controlled the board once again.
Meng Jue nodded “This Empire still belongs to the Liu family, and the Emperor in the hearts of the people is still named Liu. But……” Meng Jue pointed to the white pieces “The white pieces have the most strategic position. If the black pieces at the border starts to move, the white pieces sense danger and can strike first.” Meng Jue removed the lone black piece in the center of the board.
Liu Bing Yi placed another black piece inside “These last few years he’s worked hard to reform, lower taxes, lower punishments, stop using military expansion, letting the citizens rest. In the eyes of the scholars and the people, he is a sage ruler. Right now it seems the white pieces simply want more power. Huo Guang is very concerned with his reputation, and someone like that will never want to be remembered in the history books as an evil official.”
Meng Jue laughed “Huo Guang may be capable, but Liu Fu Ling is not a stupid Emperor. Liu Fu Ling also isn’t the only Liu family male progeny. If Huo Guang revolts, it will force the world to turn against him. So unless Liu Fu Ling pushes him to that point, he will not and will dare not revolt. He holds Liu Fu Ling’s life in his hands, but conversely Liu Fu Ling holds Huo Guang’s life in his hands. Right now it’s the Infantes that can’t wait for Huo Guang to make a move against Liu Fu Ling, so they can ride the wave and dispatch their armies and reap the easy rewards.”
Liu Bing Yi pointed to the lone black piece in the middle “What about him? What do you think about Liu Fu Ling?”
Meng Jue thought about it before answering “He’s an Emperor that doesn’t act like an Emperor. Earlier he could have used the impasse between Shang Guan Jie and Huo Guang and at the same time moved his forces from the border region back to Chang An. So when the two sides went after each other, he could sweep in and take both of them out. Afterwards he can truly rule the entire world.”
Liu Bing Yi replied “This method could become an all out war. Since the Han dynasty started to wane, the other Xi Yu tributaries have started to make noise, and could take advantage of any civil war in Chang An. Liu Fu Ling cares more about the people than he cares about his throne, so his only choice is to do nothing.”
Meng Jue smiled “What if it was you? What would you do? Would you choose to sacrifice tens of thousands of lives just to cement your power? Or would you do as Liu Fu Ling did?”
Liu Bing Yi laughed but did not answer the question “I am not him, I will never face this choice.”
Meng Jue smiled and picked up his tea “In the past you paid attention to Han politics, but today………you are not your usual self.”
Liu Bing Yi lowered his head and placed with a piece “Probably because I’m about to become a father. I don’t want my son to follow my path in life, so……….” Liu Bing Yi raised his head and looked at Meng Jue “I think I will try to fight, try to change my fate in life. I don’t ask for much, but the least I can do is allow my son not to live a life hiding like a turtle in a shell.”
Meng Jue smiled “Today, the only two people who can give you such an opportunity is Huo Guang and Liu Fu Ling. Huo Guang must already know you are in Chang An yet he does nothing, so you can’t rely on him. If you can let go of the past, you should go see him” as Meng Jue pointed to the lone black piece in the center of the board.
Liu Bing Yi’s smile was very hopeless “What right do I have to not let it go? The question is not whether I can’t let it go, but whether he will believe that I’ve let it go.”
He received a summons that Huo Guang wanted to see him. Meng Jue knew it was a big deal, but he had to go if he still wanted to stay in Chang An. He cannot afford to offend Huo Guang.
His communications with the Infante of Yen was kept between them, but now Meng Jue wasn’t so sure Huo Guang didn’t somehow know about it. He couldn’t know how much about him Huo Guang knew, so all he could do was be wary and prepared for anything.
In the past when Huo Guang received guests, it was over a yard away so that it was safe. Now after the Shang Guan Jie assassination attempt, it was now two yards away, impossible for any assassin to strike.
“How’s the tea?” Huo Guang was dressed casually at home, impossible to tell that he held the fate of all of Chang An in his hands. Meng Jue smiled and replied “The fragrance is like a cloud. This is the Wu Yi Mountain tea that the former Emperor once complimented. This is the tea for true gentlemen.”
Huo Guang was pleased with his response and stared at him, finally saying “This tea is the finest of tea, but if its not brewed using the best wood chips, the clearest mountain spring water and placed in the finest tea cup, then it wastes half of its excellence.”
Huo Guang lightly coughed and someone emerged and placed a few sheep skin letters before Meng Jue. Meng Jue took a look and then placed it back on the table, smiling despite being wary and alert inside.
Huo Guang smiled and said “You must not have known that this tea was brewed by Cheng Jun. She is my most precious daughter. If you treat her well, I will give you the best wood chips, the best water, the best tea cup, so that you can become the best cup of tea.”
Meng Jue smiled and picked up his tea. Rather than saying he needed to be good to Huo Cheng Jun, what Huo Guang was saying was that he needed to be good and loyal to the Huo family. Huo Guang waited for Meng Jue’s response but Meng Jue remained silent.
Huo Guang looked more and more annoyed. Meng Jue was a genuine talent. His own son could not compare to Meng Jue, and the more Huo Guang studied him, the more Huo Guang liked him. But the more Huo Guang liked Meng Jue, the more dangerous it was for Meng Jue. Huo Guang will not allow Meng Jue to remain as a potential threat.
Huo Guang was about to call a servant and ask Meng Jue to leave when suddenly he heard a rustling from outside. He sighed “Daughters are the most mischievous, and also the most easy to spoil.” Huo Cheng Jun stopped eavesdropping and walked right in “Daddy, you are saying mean things about me.”
Since Gan Quan Mountain, Meng Jue only saw Huo Cheng Jun once more, and that time she was still mad at him. But right now she wasn’t mad at all. She smiled at him shyly. Huo Guang looked between Meng Jue and Cheng Jun and he inwardly sighed. They did make such a beautiful couple.
Huo Cheng Jun used jasmine oil today in her hair and Huo Guang could smell the faint scent of jasmine. He looked at Huo Cheng Jun silently standing there and he felt a pang of pain in his heart. It felt like long ago, another girl stood there and looked at him. He wasn’t sure if it was the scent of her toiletry, or the scent of the jasmine bushes behind her, but he could smell the jasmine.
Huo Guang also thought about his Lian Er, the pain of a white-haired person saying goodbye to a black-haired person. He softened and decided to give Meng Jue another chance. Huo Guang stood up and smiled at Huo Cheng Jun “Dad needs to go take care of some matters, can you walk Meng Jue out?”
Huo Cheng Jun happily nodded, her smile like a just bloomed jasmine flower. Huo Guang lovingly looked at her before leaving. Huo Cheng Jun and Meng Jue walked down the corridor. Meng Jue said “Thank you, my lady, for being so considerate.”
Huo Cheng Jun smiled “I told daddy that you and I, you and I……plus my daddy really likes you.” Meng Jue was silent and said nothing. Huo Cheng Jun continued, her face bright red and looking wistful “Even though my daddy says one needs to let go in order to gain, but I don’t believe that. Yun Ge…..Yun Ge is very good. Daddy has a lot of women, too. And my brother-in-laws all have concubines. If you want……I am willing to be with Yun Ge and together……with you………..” Huo Cheng Jun’s face was so red and her voice trailed off.
Meng Jue still said nothing so Huo Cheng Jun also remained silent. The two of them walked to the front door in silence. Huo Cheng Jun stood there with her lead lowered, tugging on her robe. Meng Jue said his farewell and left. Huo Cheng Jun stared at him until his figure disappeared from view.
Madam Huo walked past and she waved her maid away and said with a sigh “Cheng Jun, did you get what you wanted?” Huo Cheng Jun grabbed her mother’s arm “Yes, but it happened so suddenly so Meng Jue needed some time to process it. He didn’t answer daddy right away and daddy was about to get mad, but then he saw me and decided to give Meng Jue another chance. Mommy, why did you have me wear jasmine oil in my hair today, and wear a yellow robe?”
Madam Huo glared at Huo Cheng Jun “Why so many “whys”. You are much too spoiled.” Huo Cheng Jun grabbed her mother like a little girl and said “Mommy, mommy…..” Madam Huo patted Huo Cheng Jun on the back “Mom understands, and I hope you picked the right person. Who to marry is the most important decision in a woman’s life. You can make a mistake on anything, but you can’t marry the wrong man by mistake.”
Huo Cheng Jun replied “I understand, so I don’t want to marry a guy who matches up to our family. One Shang Guan An is enough. I want to be like the other sisters, marry men who rely completely on daddy.”
Madam Huo didn’t respond, but her expression revealed that she agreed with Huo Cheng Jun. She was once angry because her husband didn’t select her daughter to marry Shang Guan An, but now she was so thrilled the daughter who married Shang Guan An was not her own. “Cheng Jun, from now on, you can’t dress like this in front of your dad. This time your dad relented, but in the future he won’t change his mind just because of the way you are dressed.”
Huo Cheng Jun nodded.
Xiao Qing was helping Huo Cheng Jun wash up. She stared at the pretty face in the mirror and said “My lady, you’re different than before.”
If someone who witnessed her own sister and brother-in-law die in front of her could stay the same, that would be the odd thing. Huo Cheng Jun asked “In what way different?” Xiao Qin shook her head “I don’t know, just that you are even more beautiful.”
Huo Cheng Jun have a wry smile “Did you smear your lips with honey today?”
Xiao Qing helped Huo Cheng Jun brush her head and could see she was in a good mood. She asked “My lady, if you’ve agreed to let Meng Jue take Yun Ge as a concubine, why did you go see Yun Ge that day and say those things to her?”
Huo Cheng Jun laughed and walked over to the pallet “These things, you don’t need to know. All you need to do is be loyal. If I’m doing well, you’ll do well. My sister’s maid, Shang Guan Lan’s maid, you know what happened to them. Time to sleep, we have lots to take care of in the coming days.”
Yun Ge was walking in and out of the room, like a headless chicken. It appeared she was busy, but it wasn’t clear what she was so busy about. Meng Jue sat before the light reading a book, but his eyes unconsciously followed Yun Ge.
Yun Ge checked herself out in the mirror, making sure her hair was in order and her face was not dirty “Hey, King of the Jades, is there something wrong with me?” Meng Jue smiled and shook his head “There is nothing wrong with you.”
Yun Ge pointed at her nose “Then why do you keep staring at me?” Meng Jue suddenly pulled Yun Ge into his arms, holding her snugly. She wriggled “I’m not done with my chores!”
Meng Jue softly murmured “Yun Ge”, as soft as water, but as heavy as lead, sinking immediately into Yun Ge’s heart. Yun Ge was still feeling odd but she quieted down and then wrapped her arms around Meng Jue. She rested her head on his shoulder and tenderly said “I’m here.” Meng Jue replied “Don’t do chores any more, come with me for a walk.”
Yun Ge and Meng Jue slowly walked hand-in-hand, heading towards the countryside and the farm lands. In the dark of the night, a soft breeze brought the scent of fresh produce.
Their footsteps alarmed the frog by the pond and it jumped back in with a plop. It triggered a wave of frog calls which dwindled down to silence once again.
Yun Ge was so mischievous, so that when the frogs quieted down, she called out like a frog, causing them to start once again. She laughed and asked Meng Jue “Did I mimic them well? I can fake a lot of different animal calls!”
Meng Jue laughed and then flicked her forehead “The frogs will think a pretty new female frog is here and they all want to pursue her.” Did he call her a female frog? If she was a pretty female frog, that would make her an ugly human. Yun Ge made a face at Meng Jue and then called out to the pond again. “I just told them that the female frog is currently with an even more goodlooking male frog so they needn’t bother.”
After walking for a long time, Meng Jue still didn’t suggest they head back. Even though Yun Ge was sleepy, but if Meng Jue said nothing, then she wasn’t going to say anything, just keeping him company.
As the road became narrower, harder for them to walk side-by-side, Meng Jue kneeled down “I’ll carry you.” Yun Ge laughed and climbed on his back “I was just getting tired!”
Some tall branches dangled down over the road so Yun Ge would reach up and move it aside. The moonlight shone down and Yun Ge’s hand was as translucent as a jade. “Yun Ge, sing me a song.” Yun Ge rested her head on Meng Jue’s shoulder and started humming a song.
Under the canopy of trees, the moonlight was especially gentle. Yun Ge’s song would rise and fall with the melody, almost like a dream. Meng Jue felt Yun Ge softly kissing him on the neck and he smiled, but before the smile could become wider, it froze in its place.
When Meng Jue carried Yun Ge home it was already late and Yun Ge was fast asleep. He placed her on the bed and sat down in the yard to think.
When Yun Ge slept, she was all over the place. Her blanket got kicked half off the pallet, so Meng Jue would cover her up and then resume sitting in the dark.
When Liu Bing Yi walked into Yun Ge’s courtyard at dawn, he saw Meng Jue sitting on a stool looking tired. The bottom of his robe was wet, as if he sat outside the entire night.
Liu Bing Yi saw Yun Ge’s door still closed, likely she was still asleep. He asked in a low voice “What happened?” Meng Jue raised his head and looked at Liu Bing Yi “So it’s not just an Emperor who struggles with the choice between the Empire or the Beauty. If there was a day when you had to pick between the Empire, or the Beauty, which would you pick?”
Liu Bing Yi seemed like he wanted to answer, but in the end he didn’t “I will never be faced with that choice.” Meng Jue smiled and got up “Yun Ge slept late last night so don’t wake her. I might be home late tonight, tell her not to wait for me to eat dinner.”
His tall figure walked away, without his usual confidence but with more exhaustion.
Inside the room, Yun Ge stood barefoot next to the window. She slowly walked back to the pallet and wrapped herself tightly in the blanket.
The thick blanket was not enough to keep her warm, the coldness seeped out from inside her heart, it was so cold she started sneezing.
Her body was shaking, as if she was a lone Autumn leaf that would fall off the tree at the slightest gust of wind.
When Meng Jue returned that evening, Yun Ge’s face was a tad pale but otherwise she was normal as usual. She brought out her usual array of strange foods and Meng Jue ate it as usual as well.
Yun Ge quietly sat beside him, watching Meng Jue finish the food she made. “Is it good?” Meng Jue ate the final bite and then raised his eyes “I don’t know. I don’t taste any food I eat, everything tastes the same.” Yun Ge didn’t look surprised, just nodding her head.
Meng Jue asked “How long have you known? When you started making those weird dishes for me?” Yun Ge smiled “Its my fault for being so useless. You ate all those weird dishes I cooked but it hasn’t cured you.”
Meng Jue grabbed Yun Ge’s hand “My adoptive father’s medical skills are beyond compare and he tried many different ways but could never cure me. He told me that it wasn’t an illness of the body as much as it was an illness of the heart. Since he said no medicine could treat me, you shouldn’t feel bad.”
Yun Ge stared at their entwined hands and felt tears coming to her eyes, so she quickly averted her face. Meng Jue thought she was upset about his illness and grabbed her shoulder “I’m used to it now, so don’t think anymore about it. As long as you don’t dislike me for it. You are a world famous chef yet I cannot taste your food. It’s like a blind man marrying a beauty, all he can do is hear other people complimenting his wife but he can never understand why.”
Yun Ge turned back, her tears gone, and she smiled. When Meng Jue saw her smile, he had this odd feeling that he couldn’t bear to face her smile. He pulled her head into his chest and nervously held her.
In his embrace, the smile on Yun Ge’s face disappeared and she stared straight ahead. At what she was looking at, she didn’t even know.
In these coming days, when Meng Jue left the house, she never asked him where he went. When he came home, she was always very needy towards him. Meng Jue felt that it was because of his illness, plus he always wanted Yun Ge to be this way around him, so he didn’t suspect the real reason why.
When they were alone, they were extra solicitous of each other. They were so sweet that Xu Ping Jun couldn’t stand it, while Liu Bing Yi just looked conflicted.
Liu Bing Yi stood by the gate to the courtyard for some time, but Yun Ge never moved once from her seat. She also never noticed Liu Bing Yi had long arrived. Liu Bing Yi pushed the gate open and the sound alerted Yun Ge. She immediately jumped up with a bright smile. But when she saw it was Liu Bing Yi, she couldn’t hide the emotional exhaustion in her eyes.
Liu Bing Yi pulled Yun Ge under the tree shade “You already know?”
Yun Ge finally couldn’t keep her fake smile on any longer and her face was desolate as she nodded “Big brother, don’t tell him.” Liu Bing Yi felt this sadness in his heart and he didn’t know how to console Yun Ge. This very moment, he truly hated that he was so useless. He also felt deeply once again how things would be different if he had power.
Yun Ge was silent for some time before she smiled “Big brother, I’ll be fine. He hasn’t made his decision, right? Maybe he’ll pick me, and he won’t pick the Empire!” Liu Bing Yi wanted to ask “And if he doesn’t pick you?” but when he saw Yun Ge’s forced smile, he couldn’t bring himself to say it. He nodded his head “He will.”
Yun Ge used every hour to calculate the passing of time with Meng Jue. She very carefully treasured his every warmth, his every embrace. She often thought that this might be the last time. With their every laugh, she would think to herself that this might be the last time.
She tried valiantly to grab onto as much happiness as she could hold onto. She tried so hard to leave more memories and marks in Meng Jue’s life. She didn’t know how much longer she had, and in the agony of her wait, she didn’t know how much longer she could endure it. But right now, she didn’t bear to let him go, to let go of his hand.
The streets of Chang An have gone from foreign to familiar to her. In this city, she’s made so many memories with Meng Jue. Yun Ge didn’t know how she walked to the Huo Estate, or why she was hiding in the bushes, staring at the estate in a daze. Perhaps she wanted to see clearly what thing inside was eating away at her happiness.
This estate was like a tiger, powerfully present in Chang An. The Han dynasty, in Chang An, how many people want to be connected to the Huo family. It represented wealth, power, prestige. How many people could decline that opportunity? With a chance to rule the world, how many men would not be tempted?
There are of course men like that. Yun Ge knew three such men – her daddy, her Second Brother, and her Third Brother. In the past she thought men were all like that, but now she knew the men in her family were extraordinary and different. Her mother, her future sisters-in-law, they are the lucky ones. But she didn’t seem to have such luck.
Yun Ge wryly smiled. It was strange, but she felt no hatred for this estate. Or even for Huo Cheng Jun. Perhaps in Yun Ge’s heart, everything rested with Meng Jue making a choice. It was between her and Meng Jue, and whether he wanted to be with her. Huo Cheng Jun and the Huo Estate didn’t matter.
As she was thinking, she didn’t know how long she stood here. It was dark already before she realized it. She needed to go home, Meng Jue might already be home waiting for her.
As she turned to leave, she saw the door open. In the darkness, the figure was murky, but Yun Ge knew who it was because she was so familiar with him. She knew she shouldn’t see this, but her feet seemed to be nailed to the ground.
Huo Cheng Jun was walking Meng Jue out. Xiao Qing brought a lantern over and gave Huo Cheng Jun a knowing look before nodding her head. At the front door, Meng Jue was turning to leave when Huo Cheng Jun grabbed his sleeve.
Her face was red but she said nothing. Meng Jue smiled at her but made no move to pull his sleeve out or to leave. Huo Chen Jun murmured “Haven’t seen daddy so happy in a long time while playing Go. I heard my mom say that he complimented you again, which made my mom happy.”
Meng Jue continued to smile and say nothing. Huo Cheng Jun stepped forward and embraced Meng Jue. His hand was lightly resting on her waist, neither welcoming her closer nor pushing her away. Under the lantern light, the shadow of their figures revealed a tender emotion.
After a long, a long time, still neither of them moved. Longing, it was longing at being parted. Only a couple who liked each other would have such longing at being parted.
Meng Jue smiled and said “I need to go now.” Huo Cheng Jun smiled back “It’s dark, be careful.” He tenderly said “It’s cold outside, go inside so you don’t catch a cold.” He turned and left, his footsteps slow but he didn’t turn around to look back.
Huo Cheng Jun stood at the front door watching until Meng Jue disappeared from sight. She then turned to look towards the bushes where Yun Ge was hiding. Even though it was too dark for her to see anything, she stared at those bushes for a long time.
It was a moonless night. The sky was very high, and very dark because there were few stars out. The leaves on both sides of the street floated up with the wind.
Yun Ge reached out and grabbed a leaf “It’s windy.” The pedestrians around her were all rushing to get back home. Yun Ge stopped walking and then thought “It’s time to go home.”
She took a few deep breaths to calm the pain in her heart. If she went home it wouldn’t hurt any more. She said to herself “I don’t like feeling pain, I want to get better.”
But was it true? She didn’t dare think about it. All she could do was shrink like a snail back into her shell.
A white haired old man suddenly stopped before Yun Ge with a jaunty smile “Yun Ge, Yun Ge, it really is you! Hahahahaha, it’s my taste buds lucky day. Good Yun Ge, hurry up and give your master a meal.”
Despite being old, he had the personality of a mischievous imp and the swift movements of a young man.
Yun Ge was feeling so sad, so to run into a familiar face in this foreign city was like seeing a relative. Her eyes reddened but she forced herself not to cry “Don’t call yourself that, I never agreed to have you as my master. You forced me to learn your tricks. Uncle Ho, why are you here in Chang An? Did you see my Second Brother?”
Uncle Ho looked all angry, and then realized that while everyone was afraid of his temper, in all his life Yun Ge was never afraid of him. It’s usually him begging Yun Ge for something, she never asked him for anything. He decided to be nice “Good Yun Ge Er, I haven’t seen your Second Brother in ages. I went to the North and was headed back to Xi Yu, deciding to stop in Chang An for a twirl. What are you doing here?”
Before Yun Ge could answer, Uncle Ho got all frustrated again “Ay! Ay! Yun Ge Er, so many people want to learn my tricks, some even kneeling for days and nights and I refuse. You stubborn girl, you……… Your family is full of the weirdest people. I wanted to teach your Second Brother but all he did was smile and that was the end of it. Then later I found your Third Brother and tried to teach him, and he acted like I owed him money. He gave me a stone faced look and said “Not interested”. My feelings were so hurt. It’s wonderful to know my skills………..”
Yun Ge looked disgruntled “Don’t flatter yourself. You told me if I learned your amazing pickpocket skills no wonder would ever be able to steal from me. I thought that was a good thing to know so I learned it. But you know what? The moment I arrived in Chang An, someone stole my wallet.”
Uncle Ho was a jokester but he was serious about his pickpocketing martial arts. He grew serious “Yun Ge, is that true? You only learned a portion of my skills, but that’s enough so that no one ought to be able to steal from you.”
Yun Ge nodded “It’s the truth. Someone stole all seven or eight of my pouches and caused me to have no money to spend the night and was embarrassed by the innkeeper. Thank god……” When the person’s name came to mind, Yun Ge stopped talking and just maintained a brittle smile.
Uncle Ho didn’t notice Yun Ge’s oddness and was muttering “Impossible, impossible. Even if Chang An has a master thief, to not alert you, at most he can steal four pouches. Seven or eight pouches? It would only be me. Oh!”
Uncle Ho laughed “Ay ya! I know who stole your things. Ay! Such a joke, such a joke. I only accepted two students, and neither of you know the other. But there is nothing I can do, this is the rule of the trade. Even when accepting students we have to be stealthy about it.” Yun Ge asked “Uncle Ho, who stole my things? Your other student?”
Uncle Ho smiled “Good Yun Ge Er, it’s your big brother disciple. No wait, even though he’s older than you, he learned from me after you did, so you need to refer to him as your younger brother disciple. He likely stole from you. When I told you I was the best, I didn’t yet teach Xiao Jue. Now….now….” Uncle Ho didn’t look happy to concede this “Now I’m probably the second best in the world. Xiao Jue has amazing ability to learn something, plus he made the effort unlike you. But why would Xiao Jue steal your things? There is very little he would ever want to steal, he does it for fun. I haven’t seem him in years, is he in Chang An? Yun Ge Er, don’t be angry, he doesn’t know you are his elder sister disciple under the same master. Too bad you didn’t want to learn it all from me. Which left me with only one serious disciple so I taught him everything so he can carry on my legacy.”
Yun Ge’s body shook and her face was stark white “Uncle Ho, what is Xiao Jue’s full name?” Uncle Ho was pleased to introduce his good disciple “Meng Jue, the adopted son of the only man I’ve ever respected in my life.”
Yun Ge was no longer steady on her feet and she took a few steps back, flashing through her memories so quickly and understanding everything now. Uncle Ho finally noticed Yun Ge was off “Yun Ge Er, what’s wrong? Are you sick?” Yun Ge forced a smile “No, just tired. I’ve been out all day. Uncle Ho, where are you staying? I want to go rest first and I’ll come see you later. Or we’ll meet again in Xi Yu and I’ll cook delicious food for you.”
Uncle Ho pointed to the nearby inn “Right there. It’s windy tonight so you go home and rest and cheer up. Later you can cook for your master me.”
In the dark night, the wind grew bigger and bigger.
Countless leaves blew past Yun Ge in the wind, obscuring her view. Yun Ge walked in a daze in this swirling maelstrom. So many things she thought was always and forever, but it turned out that it took only a second to destroy it all.
She once thought it was a romantic chance meeting in Chang An, like those magical stories she heard as a child. A girl down on her luck, meets a handsome young man who helps her, and thus plants their destiny for life.
But the truth was that he stole her money. Then he appeared before her to help her, causing the her who had no means to rely on him. He never knew she would cook to earn money, so she ended up not relying on him. His plan didn’t succeed, but he used other methods afterwards to barge into her life nonetheless.
No wonder he knew the tune “Cai Wei” that her Second Brother played for her. He was Uncle Ho’s disciple, so Uncle Ho must’ve mentioned Second Brother. Or perhaps he already knew “Cai Wei” was Second Brother’s favorite tune.
Back then she thought it was an extraordinary coincidence, but once again that was deliberate. But why? Why do this to her? What did she have that needed him to spend so much time and effort on her?
She pulled off the Gold Silver Flower hair pin and looked at it. The she took out the badge Uncle Feng gave her. Everything flashed before her eyes. Her parents forbade her to come to the Han dynasty, but her family lives under Han customs and traditions.
Uncle Feng was strangely caring towards her, and asked about her family. Back then she thought it was because he was curious since she was a potential bride for Meng Jue. But come to think of it, Uncle Feng’s every question was directly aimed at asking if her parents were doing well. If it wasn’t for her, how would Uncle Feng have punished Meng Jue that day? Would he have prohibited Meng Jue from using money and connections?
When Meng Jue told her his feelings, and vowed he would not have any relationship with Huo Cheng Jun going forward, that was the time Uncle Feng was sick. Likely Uncle Feng was deciding who to hand all the businesses to.
He purposely brought her to see Uncle Feng. …………….
Yun Ge suddenly started laughing out loud, so hard that her body felt weak and she slid down on the ground. Her body curled into a ball and she wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her head in her lap, sitting there right in the middle of the darkened street.
The wind picked up leaves that blew past her, and it blew her unsecured hair all around her.
Yun Ge didn’t come home for so long that Liu Bing Yi went in search of her. When he looked down the street, he was alarmed to see a person curled into a tiny ball, like a snail trying to retreat into its shell.
In the billowing wind, her hair was all around her, blowing out her sorrow.
Liu Bing Yi’s heart jerked, and he slowly walked towards Yun Ge. He was so worried, it felt like this girl would suddenly disappear with a gust of wind. “Yun Ge, Yun Ge………..” The Yun Ge on the ground didn’t react.
Because the wind was so strong, the flames in his lantern swirled and caught fire on the lantern paper. The sudden fire illuminated the dark street and Yun Ge was startled enough to raise her head and look at Liu Bing Yi. On her long eyelashes there were traces of tears, but she had a wan smile on her face. She was as delicate as a flower, and under the dancing flames, she appeared like the new dew drop on a lily under the moonlight.
The fire died out and Yun Ge’s face disappeared into the darkness once again. Liu Bing Yi stood there for a long time before he tossed the lantern aside and helped Yun Ge up. He grabbed Yun Ge’s wild hair and tried to reach for the hair pin in her hand to help her secure it, but Yun Ge wouldn’t let go of it no matter what.
Liu Bing Yi had no choice, he pulled apart the Together Knot around his waist and used it as a rope to tied Yun Ge’s hair up. Liu Bing Yi shielded Yun Ge and walked her home.
After they walked for a long time, Yun Ge appeared to finally wake up and she stopped “I want to go home. I don’t want to see him.”
Liu Bing Yi gently said “We’re almost home. He came by once before dinner and saw you weren’t there so he left. He wanted me to tell you that he went to see someone to take care of some matters. He probably won’t come by in the next few days, but he’ll be by once he’s done.”
Yun Ge heard this but had no expression on her face. Her feet started moving again. “What happened today? You’re not waiting for him to decide anymore?” Yun Ge shook her head “Nothing.” Despite all outward appearances of being docile, when Yun Ge got her temper up, there was no way around it.
Liu Bing Yi knew she wasn’t going to say anymore so he didn’t ask again “Just go home and get a good night’s sleep. Everything will get better. Big brother promise you, everything will get better.”
Xu Ping Jun heard a knocking on the door and got up to open it. “Yun Ge, it’s so windy out, where did you go? You worried me to death, and look at your disarray…..” When Xu Ping Jun saw her Together Knot in Yun Ge’s hair, the rest of what she was going to say got stuck in her throat.
Liu Bing Yi handed Yun Ge to Xu Ping Jun “I’ll go boil some water for Yun Ge and then make something to eat.” He turned and went to the kitchen.
On her way back, Yun Ge already decided that she was going home. She knew she had little time left to spend with Xu Ping Jun and Liu Bing Yi so she felt even more sad. Xu Ping Jun got water and helped clean up Yun Ge.
Yun Ge noticed Xu Ping Jun kept glancing at her hair. Despite her smile, something was odd. Yun Ge touched her hair and asked “Something wrong with my hair?” She touched the rope securing her hair and pulled it off, finally seeing that it was a Together Knot.
When Hong Yi taught her how to make it, she understood why Hong Yi wouldn’t make it for her, asking instead that Yun Ge make it herself.
Together Knot…..Heart Knotted Together.
A girl puts her heart into the Together Knot and gives it to her beloved to wear around the waist, symbolizing that their hearts are forever knotted together.
Yun Ge was so startled that she shoved the Together Knot back to Xu Ping Jun “I….I…..” She had no excuse for how Liu Bing Yi’s Together Knot ended up in her hair. She was alarmed to realize that all she could remember was walking home with Liu Bing Yi.
Xu Ping Jun smiled and accepted the Together Knot “No big deal! Men don’t pay attention to these little things. Your big brother can’t tell this from any other accessory.” She found her own hair accessory and helped fix Yun Ge’s hair. She casually asked “What happened between you and Meng dage? When I mention Meng dage in front of your big brother, he always reacts oddly. Has Meng dage been mean to you?”
Yun Ge heard the underlying unsaid thoughts in Xu Ping Jun’s question, and she felt even more sorry. Her love was over, but now her friendship seems so fragile as well. Even now, Xu Ping Jun doesn’t completely trust her.
Yun Ge suddenly felt like there was not a single person for her to miss in Chang An. She sat down next to Xu Ping Jun “Jiejie, I’m leaving.” “Leaving? Where to?” “I’m going home.”
Xu Ping Jun stopped “Home? Isn’t this your home? Do you mean Xi Yu? Why? Does your big brother know?” Yun Ge shook her head “Big brother doesn’t know, I just decided. And I’m afraid of farewells, so I don’t want to say goodbye.”
“What about Meng dage? He’s not going with you?” Yun Ge rested her head on Xu Ping Jun’s shoulder “He’ll be marrying Ms. Huo.” “What?” Xu Ping Jun was furious and wanted to jump up. Yun Ge grabbed her “Jiejie, you’re pregnant! Don’t be angry, I’m not even angry.”
Yun Ge handed her Gold Silver Flower hair pin and the badge to Xu Ping Jun “When Meng Jue comes by, please give this to him.”
Xu Ping Jun thought about their status in life and the disparity with Huo Cheng Jun and her anger dissipated. She was just so sad that Yun Ge had to endure this fate “Yun Ge, you don’t want to fight for him? Why are you giving up before even competing? Don’t you always have the best ideas? If you want to fight, you will find a way. Other than family background, there is nothing you don’t measure up to Huo Cheng Jun.”
“Not worth it. Love is not like other things, if its yours, then its yours. If its not, you can’t force it.” Yun Ge reached into the bucket of water and used her hand to grab the water, but the water seeped out regardless. She showed Xu Ping Jun her hand which had no water in it, then she used the palm of her other hand to splash over the water and it come up all wet. “This is love. Somethings when you try too hard, you’ll end up with nothing.”
What Yun Ge was saying had a deeper meaning meant for Xu Ping Jun as well. Xu Ping Jun knew it and grabbed the Together Knot even more tightly. No, since she was small she learned that she had to fight for what she wanted. She could hold on to this, she could hold on to their knotted hearts.
“Yun Ge, will we meet again?”
“Why not? I’m just tired and want to go home to rest for a bit. When I’m recovered, perhaps I’ll come visit you. If I don’t come to Chang An, you and big brother can come visit me.” Yun Ge said this with a smile, but she couldn’t see that her face was tightly wound and her demeanor exhausted.
Xu Ping Jun lightly patted Yun Ge on the back. She didn’t want Yun Ge to go, wanting to counsel her, but in the end she said nothing.
When the Huo family marries off its daughter, it’ll be even more lavish than when the princess gets married. If Yun Ge remained in Chang An, she will have to see the festivities. And now there was no Meng Jue, Yun Ge was single again………….
“When are you leaving?”
“I don’t want to see him, so as quickly as possible.”
Xu Ping Jun had tears in her eyes “Yun Ge…..” Yun Ge was teary as well “Don’t cry! Pregnant ladies are not supposed to cry, otherwise the baby will be a crybaby.”
They heard Liu Bing Yi call from outside “Time to eat.” Xu Ping Jun brushed aside her tears and Yun Ge said “Wait until I leave before telling big brother.” Xu Ping Jun hesitated for a moment, and then nodded her head.