Gu Fang Bu Zi Shang Vol02 Ch42
When Yaotian returned to the Royal Residence, Gui Changqing was already there waiting for her.
“Princess.” Seeing Yaotian, Gui Changqing got up to bow.
Yaoting softly replied and tiredly sat down on the chair. She raised her hands to rub her temples and waited for several moments before saying, “I tested Bai Pingting. From what I see, she really has no intention of returning to Chu Beijie’s side.”
“Then…what does Princess think?”
Yaotian considered it for a while and hesitantly replied, “A mere woman. If she isn’t a threat to us, then why harm her? The moment I mentioned that I could let her go, she was full of happiness. She clearly doesn’t want to stay beside the Prince Consort either.”
“Princess’ heart softened towards her.” Gui Changqing sighed.
“Senior Official,” Yaotian changed her tone, lowering it, “Does Senior Official not understand Yaotian’s troubles?”
Gui Changqing was silent.
This official of Yun Chang had always been uncompromisingly firm in his methods when dealing with matters that could affect Yun Chang’s future.
He got up, shifting his gaze away from Yaotian towards a distant tower he could not see clearly. He gradually said, “Aren’t Princess’ troubles supposed to be the troubles of Yun Chang? Princess has already acquired great power and it should be used to protect and bring mercy to many, not just a single Bai Pingting. It’s true, releasing Bai Pingting is not something difficult. However, I worry that if Princess is unable to deal with a small affair like Bai Pingting, not willing to go further simply because it’s troublesome, will Princess be able to properly deal with bigger affairs without bringing destruction to the entire Yun Chang?
Yaotian was at a loss for words and remained silent.
Gui Changqing then continued, “War is very cruel, a predatory jungle, and is never the true path of life. Princess has a very important position, and many people will take advantage if Princess’ is not heartless enough. Just because Princess doesn’t want others to taste the bitter fruit of defeat, does this mean you will have it instead?
Yaotian took every word to heart and remained silent for a long time. “Yaotian understands Senior Official’s intention.”
“Please consider it, Princess.”
Yaotian stayed silent for a while before sighing. “Sigh, go ahead, Senior Official.”
“Please speak, Princess…”
“You must keep it a secret and mustn’t let the Prince Consort know.”
“I will take care,” Gui Changqing departed, still in a bow.
The bead curtains shook at the movement, causing the jewels on it collide into each other, scattering the light coldly in all directions.
He Xia was on his way, his body full of dust as he speed towards the border.
If he knew that his most beloved maid had met with misfortune, how would he react?
Yaotian was fully worried as she thought carefully over and over again.
She dearly loved that man and clearly understood that if He Xia knew what she had done, she would never be forgiven.
Fate just played too many tricks on people.
Pingting, that woman called Pingting, was so clever yet simple.
Exploring the earth, without a single care for the rest of the world, as free as a bird.
If one could really explore the world the earth, without a single care for the rest of the world, truly as free as a bird, then how truly amazing it would be…
Because, even though Yun Chang was the most peaceful compared to the other three countries, she had been following the national policy that stayed with her through throughout life.
Although the clouds of battle now covered the head of this peaceful country, the markets in the capital had not yet been affected. Several carriages, horses and people strolled around the stalls that sold peanuts, soybean milk, rice dumplings as well as various displays, some with monkeys as they basked for money. Several maids curiously walked along the street, picking out rouge or watercolour paints and many seemed to have been ordered to buy a few for their residence’s ladies and madams.
Pingting and Zuiju picked the places with the most number of people. They took several alleyways as shortcuts, twisting and turning until not long later, they had reached another bustling street.
Zuiju followed closely behind her, holding the baggage. Her feet no longer enjoyed the touch of ground, “Miss, we have already been walking for a long time.”
“I’m trying to throw off the tail behind us.”
Zuiju was surprised, “There’s someone following us?”
“I’m just guessing. There’s too many people to know who exactly is.”
A helpless expression formed on Pingting’s face. “I really don’t know.”
She had always been protected at the residences, protected by He Xia or Chu Beijie, and whether she was inside or outside. Even on the battlefield or advisory tent, guards had accompanied her. As a result, her encounters with enemies were uncommon.
If He Xia or Chu Beijie had been there, they would immediately notice who was the enemy, but Pingting didn’t have this ability. Her naturally sharp senses indicated whenever there was danger, but all she could do was to hide as best she could.
The two quickened their pace when Pingting suddenly stopped and said, “I’m thirsty. Let’s buy a bowl of soybean milk.” She pulled Zuiju to a stall and put down two silver coins. “I’d like two bowls of soybean milk please, Mister.”
When she took it over, her hand suddenly wobbled, causing half of the milk to spill.
“Kyaa!” Zuiju couldn’t dodge in time and was drenched in it. Pingting was not spared either and a few drops spilled onto her sleeve.
“Oops,” Pingting hurriedly put down the milk. “It’s all my fault for being so clumsy, what to do now?” She worriedly looked around herself. Seeing a nice-looking matron looking their way from her residence, she hurriedly pulled Zuiju towards the entrance of the door, looking very innocent. “Matron, is it possible to borrow clothes from this place?”
Their own clothes were prettily made and they had treated her with respect, suggesting that they were daughters of a good family. With the carefree honesty unique to all Yun Chang people, the matron quickly replied, “Why not? Come in, Miss. How could you walk around the streets like this?”
She opened the door and led them inside.
The matron looked at Zuiju who looked like she had been soaked in soup for hours. She chuckled, “Soybean milk is full of sugar and will be sticky when dry. Miss can take it off and I will wash it.”
Pingting also said, “Mother will definitely yell at me for ruining my own clothes when I get back. Please, Matron, give me some water so I may wash may them myself.”
“Oh my, don’t wash them yourself. You are a guest from the moment you enter. How could we possibly allow our guests to wash their own clothes?”
The matron was very kind-hearted and found two sets of old clothing for them. “Please change into them, Miss. These are my daughter-in-law’s, and her figure is about the same as yours. It’s not made from fine materials like yours, but at least it’s clean.”
This was exactly what Pingting wanted. She immediately thanked her and hurriedly changed into them with Zuiju. She then lowered her voice to Zuiju, “Give me a silver coin from your back.”
After getting into the clothes, the matron took the clothes that the two had changed out of. “I’ll go wash them first, and will be back soon. This material must be very expensive, oh my, very expensive.”
The moment the matron’s back had disappeared out the door, Pingting hurriedly tug at Zuiju. “Let’s go.” She put down the silver coin onto the table and was about to go, when she hesitated for a moment. She tore off the blue tablecloth and continued to push Zuiju.
Zuiju hurriedly replied, “Miss, that is the rear side.”
“Of course we can’t go out the main door. If there really is someone following us, then they’re waiting outside now.” Pingting had chosen to approach the matron only after seeing the residence was big, meaning there was more chance of ordinary people and if the backyard was big enough, then there should be a small side exit.
“Look!” There was a little bit of glee deep inside Pingting’s voice. “There’s a door as expected.”
The two crept out of the side door, ending up in a quiet back alley. Pingting messed up Zuiju’s hair, “Tie two pigtails.” She then put down her own hair and managed to tie it up in a very, very ordinary hairstyle. Not long later, it seemed that two had become completely different people. Pingting then unfolded the cloth she had stolen, wrapping up the outside of the bag. “Now they can’t identify us by our bags too.”
The two exchanged a smile at this before carefully walking out of the alley. Their steps were slow as if two close sisters were shopping around town.
“Can we go out of the city now?” Zuiju whispered.
“No.” Pingting’s gaze drifted towards a raised plaque in the distance. She grinned, “Off to the hotel.” When the opponent noticed that she had escaped, they would definitely go to the city gates first. Since that was the case, why not stay for two days and wait until their pursuers were faraway.
Zuiju understood this, secretly praising Pingting’s intelligence. She nodded, “Then let’s go.”
“You go first.” Pingting chuckled while saying. “You go first, I’ll follow. Order a separate room each, so we’re not related at all. Give me a few more coins from your bag.”
Zuiju saw that her spirits had significantly risen, with the energy of a bird freed from its case. She couldn’t help smile sweetly as she handed the coins to her, replying, “Understood. So we’re not related at all. I will go now, but when will you arrive?”
“Not too close. I will come in the evening.”
Zuiju started to worry. “Miss, why don’t you go first and let me stay on the streets…”
“Don’t argue.” Pingting sucked her lip and smiled. “The capital is now a battlefield. I am the main advisor, so don’t argue with me, you mere little soldier.” She pushed Zuiju by the shoulder, “Go.”
Zuiju followed Pingting’s commands and asked for a room at the hotel. Although the room was small, it was tidy. Zuiju paced around, studying every nook and cranny and did not find any fault that would make her worry. She relaxed and sat in the room by herself, waiting for Pingting.
The silence was lonely and the best torture to human minds. Since leaving Dong Lin, she had never left Pingting’s side. She only had to wait for a while before beginning to worry. Pingting was the primary target, and her body’s condition significantly restricted her actions. What if… the silence made her think about all sorts of nasty thoughts as she sat down. Zuiju regretted it. She shouldn’t have listened to Pingting and entered the hotel first. Her heart and mind seemed to have several ants crawling in them. The more she thought, the more scared she became. Zuiju stood up, wanting to immediately find Pingting. She burst out of the room but then stepped back.
What if she went and Pingting returned but couldn’t find her? After thinking, it seemed this and that couldn’t work. She swallowed back her fears and continued to wait.
Time seemed to pa.s.s very slowly. Each minute and second was painfully endured, each tearing at Zuiju’s being. She finally saw that it was evening, yet Pingting hadn’t arrived, causing her to be extremely agitated. She turned in circles around the room.
d.a.m.n it, d.a.m.n it. I shouldn’t have listened to Miss Bai.
Night was beginning to fall. The sitting and waiting increased Zuiju’s anxiety as the moments continued to pa.s.s.
The sound of knocking started to sound. Zuiju jolted back in shock. She clenched her fists but placed a calm expression on her face as she walked towards the door.
“Who are you looking for?”
There was a man carrying luggage at the door. He was tall and thin, most of his face obscured by a large bamboo hat, only revealing a dark-cloured chin.
“Ah…” A soft laugh came from under the huge bamboo hat.
Zuiju’s expression changed, hurriedly pulling that person into the room. She carefully closed the door and clenched her teeth. “You scared me to death, Miss! Where did you go? Why did you only come now?” She sighed in relief.
“I’ve heard about disguising as men before and finally learned it today.” Pingting took off the bamboo hat, the black and white of her eyes starkly contrasting to her dark-coloured complexion. They looked like two brightly coloured gems. Something unknown had been placed in her clothes, making her shoulders seem a lot broader but also making her figure seem even thinner. Pingting pulled off her height-increasing shoes and rubbed her small red feet on the bed. “There wasn’t enough time, so I only changed my makeup. I am so tired, need a rest.” She then fell back onto the bed.
“Didn’t you say to order one room each so we wouldn’t be related?” Zuiju reminded her. “Be careful not to let others suspect us.” She then frowned, before asking, “Why is your voice so hoa.r.s.e? Got a cold? Would you like some medicine?”
“I changed my voice with herbs. Otherwise how could I speak like a man?” Pingting thought of something funny, and began to chuckle amusedly, “When I got to this hotel, I described you to the bellboy, saying that you were my wife who left home after a fight. He then brought me here.”
Zuiju was not satisfied. “Won’t people laugh at me tomorrow when we go out?” But she couldn’t help laughing out as well. She undid the bag Pingting brought back with her. “What’s this? Ah!” She quickly retracted her hand.
“Be careful, it’s very sharp.” Pingting hurriedly got off the bed and came towards her. “Let me see. Are you hurt badly?
“No, I was luckily quick enough.” Zuiju held out her hand to let her see, a new red mark on her finger. “What did you get this for?”
“For self-protection as we travel. It’ll be much easier to use after a.s.sembling them carefully.” Pingting had put in a few knives and daggers as well as several strange objects Zuiju had no idea about. She took them out and placed them on the table. Pingting then said, “There are still a few other parts left. Because the manufacturer was busy, I paid double and will collect them tomorrow morning.” She then took out a brush and ink, writing the names of several herbs. She handed it to Zuiju, “Take these to the pharmacy tomorrow and buy them.”
Zuiju looked at them, curiously asking, “These herbs don’t agree or match with each other and is without central effect, therefore they are never used together. What does Miss need them for? Do you feel uncomfortable?”
“Don’t worry, it’s not for me.”
After being convinced, Zuiju took over the prescription. She carefully warned, “I know that you have good knowledge of medicine, but if it’s for yourself, then my prescriptions are still better.”
Pingting had brought some hot buns from the streets. The two didn’t leave the room. They ate inside before heading to the bed to sleep.
The bed of the hotel was very hard, but shockingly Pingting laid down with an extremely pleasant look. She sighed and said, “How comfortable…”
“Have some blankets so you won’t be cold.” Zuiju quietly asked, “I don’t think I can squeeze in. The bed is too small.”
“A squeeze is better; it’s warmer.” Pingting grabbed Zuiju’s hands under the blanket, softening her voice. “It’s so nice that my child won’t be born in the midst of the various schemes. I want him to be born in the mountains and the forests, a place where clean springs run while birds fly overhead.”
“Build a little cabin, cook some food at the back and buy and old qin,” Zuiju continued.
Pingting began to laugh. “Sounds right.” The two people then silently thought about a life in the mountains and forest, immersed in the beauty of the night. Pingting then asked, “Are you not going to return to your Teacher?”
“How could I not return? After so long, I really do miss Teacher.” Zuiju’s voice was faraway, “When Teacher sees me, he will definitely yell at me.”
“Zuiju, let’s make a promise.”
“Hm?” Zuiju turned, receiving Pingting’s serious eyes. Something suddenly came into mind, bursting into her mouth. “I will never tell anyone about your whereabouts, especially the Duke.” She then made the oath the way people of Dong Lin did.
Pingting nodded and sighed in relief.
The two then managed to sleep.
Under the same moon, Chu Beijie was unable to sleep that night.
Other than the cold wind of the plains whirling around Chu Beijie’s ear, it was silent. He had his sword unsheathed, dancing to its cold light.
A sword was power.
He had once defeated the Bei Mo army on the battlefield in just three commands, shattering the entire morale of the Bei Mo army.
When heroes had swords, their spirits lifted.
As long as they had a sword in hand, they should be without fear, surging ahead without looking back.
He knew the sword in his hand was filled with power, enough to shake all of the earth’s strong mountains. After all, how many generals were out there who dared to challenge Chu Beijie?
In the depths his eyes, the lights of the army tents were imprinted onto them. The sleeping soldiers inside them never once suspected that their advisor would lose.
Chu Beijie was someone who could not fail. With him leading them, it was one victory followed by another.
Under the moon, Chu Beijie calmly waved around his sword as he danced. His body was like a dragon, flying around in the night sky of the plains.
His sword techniques were sharp, but his heart was soft.
Not only in a mess, it was also in pain.
The wrenched pain in his heart grew deep until living was more painful than death.
But the more painful his heart, the more he had to endure it. The sword seemed even harsher in response.
In the vast depths of the darkness, the dim lights emitted the slightest haze. They wrapped around his distraught figure as if softly smiling at him.
Every second, every minute, he grew increased understanding of the sorrow Pingting felt as she parted. Yet it was something he could never understand the full extent of, the despair and helplessness that came with it. His skills in swords were unparalleled, and his horse was the best in the world, yet the purest love he had for the most important woman of his life was slowly dissipating.
All those moments before the flowers and the moon had been about the other. Now that he thought about it, those memories should have been unforgettable, yet he had shattered them all without reserve. Why did he realise now that Pingting spent so much effort, despite her uneasiness, to desperately entrust herself to him?
“If you live, I live. If you die, I can only accompany you to death.”
“Please let Pingting follow Duke to the ends of the earth. My honour is decided by Duke and my death decided by Duke.”
The promise stood, not one word a lie.
Every word was heartfelt, and every word were her tears of blood.
After Luoshan’s report, he had gone to the secluded residence, uncovering a pot of pickled plum blossoms in the courtyard where Pingting lived in. When he’d opened it, the soft fragrance flooded into his noise. He seemed to be able to see the scene of Pingting picking the flowers. That scene in his mind was beautiful, a picture of paradise.
She was carrying his flesh and blood.
The flesh and blood of Chu Beijie and Bai Pingting tied, moulded together. That tiny life was hidden in her belly.
He wanted to put his palm on that little belly, gently stroking it. He wanted to place his ears by it, listening to the movement of his own flesh and blood.
This desire was tangled up in his heart, causing a hammering pain. Chu Beijie gripped tightly onto his precious sword, thrusting it fiercely into the wind. It flew freely out of his hands.
Little did he know that the person he wanted to save had already set off on a long journey. That journey was both long and dangerous, ending at the edge of the world.
They were ready to leave by the third day. The wife that had left home after a quarrel was finally flattered enough to go home by her tall and skinny husband. The two excused themselves at the reception. To make the wife happy, the husband appeared to have spent all day buying all sorts of good things for her. When they arrived, all they had were two small bags. Those two had become a huge bag each by the time they left.
“Be careful, Guests. Next time you come back to the capital, make sure to return to our hotel!” The bellboy yelled to send them off.
The taciturn husband didn’t say anything, but Zuiju beamed at him.
They got out from the city gates peacefully, walking northeast.
“We still need to buy two horses,” said Zuiju.
“It’s too noticeable to buy horses in the capital.” Pingting took out a rough map she bought from a wandering merchant a few days ago. She looked at it closely for a while. “It seems there is a small town fifteen miles away. It won’t be too late to buy a horse after a night’s rest.”
The two delicate girls walked together, carrying their bags on their backs. Their pace wasn’t slow. They barely managed fifteen miles when the signs of night began to fall, but the little town marked on the map was nowhere to be seen.
“Why are we still not there?”
Pingting frowned. “This map isn’t as refined as the maps the army uses, so the distance and directions should only be approximate. I reckon the little town is still ahead, at most two more miles.”
The cold wind from the mountains seemed to leak through the cracks of the rocks, bringing back numerous horrible-sounding echoes. Zuiju looked around at her surroundings. The trees were gray in the dim light, seeming to hide ghosts, monsters or beasts that would jump out at any time. She shuddered and said, “Miss, this is such a gloomy path, yet we still have to walk two more miles?”
“What else can we do apart from walk? Stay in this dark forest of the mountain for a night perhaps?”
The two gritted their teeth and continued on. The slope on the mountain continued upwards, making each pa.s.sing minute of walking more tiring. They walked on the twisting mountain road for half an hour, puffing when night had fallen. The moon had risen behind them, casting looming shadows of the trees onto the ground. They seemed to emphasise the eeriness of the forest.
“It’s almost too dark to see the road,” Zuiju said, “It’s about time to light the lamp.” She opened the bag, taking out the matches and a small oil lamp. She held the lamp with one hand and was about to light it with the other when Pingting stopped her.
“Be quiet!” Pingting’s voice had a sense of urgency as if anxious after detecting danger.
Zuiju suddenly stopped her movement, following the direction of Pingting’s gaze.
The faint flickering of a fire was filtered through the forest in the southeast direction.
“Other travellers.” When Zuiju saw them, she returned the matches and the lamp back into the bags. “I wonder what they’re doing.”
Pingting’s bright eyes stared at the lights that seemed weak due to being shrouded by the forest. She lowered her voice, “This is a road that must be crossed when going from the capital to the Bei Mo borders.”
The people who meant her harm clearly knew that Yun Chang, Dong Lin and Gui Le were not places where she could stay. The only possible place she could live was in Bei Mo.
If her traces had been lost at the capital, where else was a better place to ambush her than this road in the mountains?
The night was heavy.
“We must leave!” Zuiju urgently whispered back.
“This is an obstacle that must be dealt with sooner or later.” Pingting slowly shook her head, a faint confidence in her lips. “Come with me.”
The two quietly crept deeper into the forest. They crossed the lush forest between them until they were near to the many flickers of light they had seen on the mountainous road.
“That wench! How long do we still have’ta wait?”
Hearing their voices, Pingting and Zuiju instinctly lowered themselves, hiding in the bushes.
There were a few men lying and sitting around a campfire. Two or three jugs of alcohol and a few polished swords laid messily on the ground.
“Bandits?” Zuiju whispered softly in Pingting’s ear.
Pingting gracefully raised an eyebrow, “Not necessarily.”
The crisp sound of a foot snapping a twig suddenly came, causing the two to jump back in fright. They were too afraid to continue talking but continued to peep.
“Yah. Just how long do we ‘ave to guard this d.a.m.ned road?”
The man who had his head tilted back exposed his throat to the jug of wine, appearing to be the boss of these people. He muttered, “Cut the c.r.a.p. If we’re to wait, then wait!”
“But we’ve ‘been waiting ‘ere every day. When are those two little wenches coming?” Said a scruffy-looking man with the face of a rat as he guarded the campfire.
Two little wenches?
Pingting and Zuiju’s hearts thumped in understanding. They exchanged each other a look.
Another man sneezed and sat up. “I reckon, izza day away from capital to ‘ere. No movement a’tall in the last three days. Betcha they haven’t gone on this road so our waiting is pointless.”
“I told you to cut the c.r.a.p and patiently wait on!” The boss angrily threw away the empty jug. “Those b.a.s.t.a.r.ds, useless tailing pieces of c.r.a.p. How could they lose two little wh.o.r.es in the capital? We’re the doomed ones, eating the north wind ‘ere without a life. The Senior Official said this was a road that must be crossed when going from the capital to the Bei Mo borders and this was a task of utmost importance. If we can’t complete it, we’ll be eating da cold wind forever.”
The man at the campfire lamented at the injustice. “Everyone says that little Bai s.l.u.t is very cunning. Who knows what road she’d take?”
Zuiju couldn’t move at all and tightly clutched onto Pingting’s hand under the cover of the bushes.
“Not to worry. Sooner or later she will hit one of our people. The roads that must be crossed when heading to Dong Lin and Gui Le also have people waiting to ambush.”
“Hehe…” The ratty-looking man’s voice was sharp and high-pitched, very nasty sounding. “Though I do wish those two little s.l.u.ts come ‘ere. ‘eard that Chu Beijie was driven crazy with l.u.s.t for one of those wh.o.r.es. Even the Prince Consort thinks of her as a treasure. Betcha it’s ‘cos her skill in bed is amazing, good to die for.”
The men all spluttered in evil laughter.
“True, I hope they come onto this road too and see whether she can make us feel so good to die, or we’re the ones to make her feel so good to die.”
“Haha, we’d better prepare a good line up so no feelings are hurt aye.”
Their boss coldly warned them. “You can play with ‘er however you like but don’t kill ‘er. If she’s dead, go see the Senior Official with your heads looped off.”
Pingting had always been spoiled by the Duke and d.u.c.h.ess in her youth. Even when she escaped or imprisoned, she had always been treated with respect. Listening to the group’s foul language made her tremble with anger.
Zuiju could see Pingting was angry and gave her a look, beckoning for them to retreat.
But Pingting didn’t move at all, her gaze fixed on the flames of fire.
That group of people energetically chattered away for a long time. Someone headed towards the forest when the firewood had already finished burning. Pingting and Zuiju didn’t move at all. Their hearts threatened to jump out of their chests when they heard snapping twigs about ten feet away. It was dark in the forests but the bushes were dulled yellow. Thankfully it was densely packed. Pingting and Zuiju’s clothing as well as the cloth on the bag were dark coloured, blending into the darkness of the night. That person walked around once, collecting a pile of branches and threw the pieces of wood one after the other into the fire.
The wood burned in the fire, producing the crisp crackling sounds.
“Time to swap shifts.” The boss got up, looking particularly tall and burly. He kicked the sleeping man beside him, “You three, go guard the checkpoint ahead. Qi-boy, take the lookout post above. Nanfeng and you, go check the traps.”
“I’ll go now. Hehe, maybe the s.l.u.ts are already in the traps, waiting to meet us!”
Another peal of laughter.
Qi-boy had just stood up, turning around to put out the fire. There was still a huge piece of something red behind them, appearing to be unroasted meat. Because of the coldness of the snow, raw meat could be stored for many days outside.
He whipped out a sharp knife and sliced a piece of frozen meat off. “Let’s go.”
Pingting realised they would pa.s.s through the bushes, meaning they were likely to discover their presence. She pulled Zuiju’s hand and retreated without a word or sound.
The two found a place where the moonlight did not reach, squeezing behind several large boulders. Zuiju thought if it hadn’t been for Pingting’s sense of danger and if she lit the lamp, they would have met the enemies, resulting in torture worse than death. Her slightly heavier breathing had not yet relaxed when she whispered, “I never imagined Yaotian would be so heartless. Miss, what shall we do?”
Pingting also lowered her voice. “There is an ambush ahead, not to mention a lookout ahead and traps in the forest.” She thought for a long time and opened her own bag. She took out a small box. “Spread this over your hands, feet and face.”
Zuiju couldn’t see what the little box contained in the moonlight, so she sniffed at it, realising what it was. These were the herbs Pingting had asked her to buy. Pingting had grinded it all into a powder and combined them with a strange oily substance. The bizzare paste that formed as a result was now placed in the little box.
Pingting herself also spread a lot on her own face and limbs. She explained, “This is to avoid hunting dogs.”
“How does Miss know they have hunting dogs?”
“That man sliced off a large piece of meat before leaving. It’s definitely for a hunting dog.” Pingting returned the box after they had spread enough of the paste. She took out several more objects from the bag and arranged them on the floor.
The moonlight did not reach them, therefore Zuiju had no idea what she was fiddling with. In just three days in the capital, Pingting had spent eighty or ninety percent of the money Yaotian had given them, producing all sorts of odd things that Zuiju had no inkling of their purpose or origins. “Miss, why don’t we head back to the capital and slowly lengthen the time? We’ll go back the way we came and find somewhere to hide. It won’t be too late to head to Bei Mo after they’ve disbanded.”
“The sooner we get to Bei Mo, the safer we’ll be. If we waste too much time, He Xia may quickly be aware of my escape and will send orders to capture me at all costs.” In the darkness, Pingting’s eyes flashed with pride like the piercing light of obsidian. Her voice turned cold, “Besides, how could I let go of such a rude group?”
Zuiju knew that Pingting was furious and secretly lamented.
This person had strategized on equal terms with Chu Beijie and He Xia. When it was down to the cut and the thrust, a fight that settled everything, she was no match for even a beginner pract.i.tioner of the sword arts.
How could she not “let go” of them?
“Now is not the time to hold grudges. They’re all men and armed.”
Pingting’s soft smile came through the darkness. “Don’t be afraid. Those boars are nothing to me, as long as I have these in hand.” She picked a few items off the ground and handed them to Zuiju. She placed her own bag back on her back. In a quiet voice she said, “Come with me.”
The two people slowly crept though the forest. Pingting stopped every few moments before continuing, occasionally listening or carefully sniffing to find the right direction. Not long later, they finally found a small spring. The two continued to walk upstream and soon found its end. The spring’s water trickled between the rocks, causing a gurgling sound of water. Indeed, it was the source.
In the darkness of the night, Pingting had some trouble a.s.sessing the shape of the mountains and forests around them. She turned to Zuiju, instructing, “Their campsite fire is clearly visible from here, suggesting that the lookout and checkpoints of the group are not far from there. To prevent us from moving in the forests, they have definitely set a large number of traps in them. It seems the group are divided into two, for maximum supervision. If we try to pa.s.s, there is no way they won’t be alerted.”
“We mustn’t alert them. They have too many people. If they surround us, how could we possibly leave?”
Pingting sat down beside the mouth of the spring. She dipped a hand into it, bending the running water. She sat there for a while and her words were thoughtful, “On the contrary, we want to alert them.”
Pingting took the objects from Zuiju’s hands. “These trees here are perfect.” She began to a.s.semble the objects one by one. Zuiju had some clue of what she was trying to do not long later.
“It becomes a crossbow after a.s.sembling?”
“Although it is indeed a crossbow, it isn’t a normal one.” Pingting took out a leather strap and skilfully manoeuvred it onto the tree. She then brought the leather strap towards the edge of the mouth of the spring, successfully setting up device. “When they step on this, it fires.”
After the first had been set, she started on the second. She secured them with a leather strap and hid it in the dense trees or bushes, taking extra care to hide the strap.
She was busy for a long time, fitting seven such crossbows. Each was set deeper in the forest than the last. Zuiju studied them and realised they did not fire at the same time. Pingting used the leather straps to connect them.
“When the first round fires, then the second is freed. When the second round finishes firing, the third is freed and so on…” After Pingting finished, she and Zuiju returned to where the device was first set up. She stood by the mouth of the river, raising a hand to point at the distant crossbows hidden in the darkness. “The forest is very dark so they will definitely not realise that there are crossbows hidden in the trees. They would only know what really happened when morning arrives.”
Zuiju gathered all of her concentration together, under the cover of darkness. Suddenly, everything clicked. “When they step on the device, the first round will be shot, making them think that we’re on the other side of the stream. After the first round fires, the second round will begin from a further point, making them think that we have retreated deeper into the forest. Gradually, they will be drawn far away from this place.”
Pingting replied, “Although there are a large number of arrows, they are done automatically, so they won’t be very accurate or cause a lot of harm. The real harmful thing is still here.” She slowly pointed to it.
“The mouth of the spring?”
“As it’s the source, then all the water flows throughout the entire spring. When they cross the spring to hurry to the other side, they will cause large splashes.”
“Miss means to…” Zuiju saw that Pingting’s pearly white palm held a few herbs rolled up into tight b.a.l.l.s and her voice was confused, “poison them?”
“Correct. We’ll place it in the spring. It’ll slowly dissolve in the water, staying for a day or two.”
Zuiju nodded in praise, suddenly remembering the most important question. “But why would they come here and step on the device?”
Pingting’s face revealed a profoundly confident smile. “Do they not have hunting dogs?”
Zuiju saw her smile and abruptly began to sympathise those hateful men.
This Miss Bai who could shake the four countries had enough of feeling helpless. After hearing some very insulting words tonight, she was filled to the brim with anger. She was planning to vent all of it out on this unlucky group.
Who else dared mess with the Bai Pingting who even Chu Beijie and He Xia were afraid to mess with?