Anyway back to the story. Just when I was impressed with Huang Fu Yun for correctly guessing the mystery behind the body swap and how she used the situation to her advantage, along came someone whom she is really no match for. And no, it is not Gong Sun Yun. Read on to find out more.
- Moonblossom -
Chapter 3 – Part 1 of 2
There is only one word to describe the feeling when someone is trying to repay you – Great! with exclamation mark!
Had she known this earlier, she would have tried to save more people and asked each of them for a repayment token before letting them go.
Luckily she was someone who likes to overthink and has retrieved the jade pendant after she has buried it. To prevent trouble if it was ever found on her, say by his enemies if he has any, she has asked He Zai to shatter the pendant with his internal strength as a precaution.
Ah, life is really Great! This journey is comfortable if not outright luxurious, even if she was technically in the midst of being chased out of the Central Plains. Cloud Manor had many disciples and was held in high esteem by many pugilists in the Central Plains. Gentleman Xian Yun especially, was very well regarded and his name is literally like a shiny piece of gold. Thanks to him, she had no worries on lodging, food or clothing. She congratulated herself again for being the one who saved this gold nugget. The more she thought about it, the more she felt that saving him was probably the best thing she has ever done.
To prevent clashes, Gong Sun Yun has gotten them to travel on less frequently used routes. Before they arrived at a resting spots, other Cloud Manor disciples would have made prior arrangements to ensure a comfortable stay. If not for her strong willpower, she would have happily sponged off Gentleman Xian Yun for the rest of her life.
“Do you like Xian Yun?”
The question came out of the blue and she nearly tripped. She looked in front where Gong Sun Yun was standing. He was dressed in his customary white but he no longer gave off vibes that got her confused with the beautiful Water Fairy, Luo Shen.
Thinking that she did not hear the question, Che Yan Yan repeated. ““Do you like Xian Yun?”
“Definitely not.” That was the standard, life-preserving answer.
Che Yan Yan was suspicious. “You would deny it when everyone – man, woman, old, and young - in the Central Plains like him? How could you not like him?”
Every man, woman, old and young? Maybe that was in response to his parental love! Still, she could only answer: “It must be because my eyesight is poor.”
“It is such a pity you do not like him.” snarked Che Yan Yan. “If I snatch your man, I think the feeling would be very gratifying."
“Protector Che may not take a fancy to the things I like. But if you are able to snatch the man belonging to the No. 1 Beauty of the pugilist world, I bet the feeling would be truly gratifying.”
“Who is Deng Hai Tang to warrant a nickname like Hai Tang Fairy!?”
Wang Yun was quick to nod her agreement. “No matter if it is carriage or looks, Protector Che is the only one who truly deserves the title of ‘Fairy’!”
Che Yan Yan was looking longingly at Gong Sun Yun, but her suspicions were roused by her honeyed words. She returned her focus to Wang Yun. “Huang Fu Yun, you really confuse me sometimes. We are both from the same sect but our characters are miles apart.”
“That is so. As the saying goes, different feathers do not flock together. Our characters are different so we are not suitable to be friends, although I have always kept abreast of the things you do. You are bold… no, I mean your gutsy approach to things, tells me that you are an intelligent heroine. You should have seen through it long ago that I am not suited for life in the Sect. If given a chance, I would rather live peacefully in some remote village and I hope Protector Che would consider this and leave me a lifeline in future.”
Che Yan Yan looked at her with disgust. “Our characters are indeed different. You seem so mousy and careful, but your mouth will never let up in saying nice things to please Master. The worse part is, you can always guess what Master is thinking. Huang Fu Yun, your contradiction is the one thing I despise most about you! If you are interested to become the next Sect Leader, you should be upfront about it. I would accept it if I ever lost. But you keep doing things in the sly while denying that you want to snatch the master’s seat - for that I look down on you!”
Wang Yun lowered her gaze and fingered her jade flute. She did not want to snatch anything, really…
Che Yan Yan gave a cold snort and decided to chase after Gong Sun Yun. She just passed Wang Yun when she turned to her again. “I have something to do tonight. You and that Sky Slave of yours better stay far away from me. If you try to foil my plans, I will not let you off!”
Che Yan Yan left, leaving a confused Wang Yun behind. She must be joking – just who was the one doing things in the sly now? It was obvious Che Yan Yan was trying to seduce… umm, on second thoughts, should she send Che Yan Yan some aphrodisiac to maintain friendly relations? But maybe Che Yan Yan would prefer to use beauty instead of drugs to overcome Gong Sun Yun…
She looked at deity-from-nine-heavens. For someone who grew up in civilized society, he probably has never come across a woman who wanted to seduce him. Would he be able to survive the attack? She coughed to cover up her wicked smile. In truth, she would love to be a fly in the room when it happens. Unfortunately she has to abide by her principle to see no evil, hear no evil….
Someone came to her side and she smiled in greeting “Is Fifth Gentleman looking for me?” Thanks to him, this journey has not been boring. He Zai was a man of few words but deity-from-nine-heavens and Fifth Gentleman were always gracious and friendly despite their “escort”.
“It is nothing, just time to take your pulse.”
Again? She raised her brows but she rolled up her sleeves nonetheless.
She thought his kungfu must be quite impressive to be able to walk and take her pulse at the same time. Over the last few days, she has managed to learn more about Cloud Manor and found that they have many outstanding disciples. As for Fifth Gentleman and Gentleman Xian Yun, their relationship was like real brothers but she was skeptical and felt that no matter how close, someone would betray the other one day.
To pass the time, she asked casually: “Fifth Gentleman, may I ask you a question?”
Gong Sun Zhi has taken a liking her and he replied her warmly: “Miss Huang Fu may speak her mind.”
“Well… I heard some rumors that Gentleman Xian Yun once smiled at Protector Che?”
He froze and she continued with a smile. “I am not blind. Over the past few days, I have noticed that while Fifth Gentleman smiles a lot, Gentleman Xian Yun never smiles. If his smile is so precious and yet he chose to smile at her, it could only mean…”
Gong Sun Zhi released her hand and strolled leisurely with her along the mountain path. “Actually, the rumors are only half correct. Xian Yun happened to be around when Protector Che came to the Central Plains that day. When he heard the new arrival announced herself as ‘Che Yan Yan’, he smiled.”
“That is it?” She had thought the story would at least be something along the lines like I-pledge-my-love-to-thee-with-three-smiles. And wasn’t Che Yan Yan a tad too useless to fall for just a smile?
He continued. “That happened two years ago. They were standing quite far apart but who would guess Che Yan Yan would see his smile … Actually, Xian Yun already has someone in his heart…” he broke off and waited for her to ask further.
Endure, she will endure. Usually, she would not delve too deeply into casual talk for fear that curiosity will kill the cat. Although she would love to hear more, she has decided not to probe further.
Seeing no response from her, Gong Sun Zhi continued speaking after a while. “Miss is already recovered but should still rest more. Ay, traveling under the hot sun is actually pretty damaging to your body. Although its effect is not apparent in the short run, you would feel the difference when you are older. According to ….”
To Wang Yun’s amazement, he continued his lecture from not paying attention in the twenties, to organ failure at the seventies. Is the weather too hot that this Gentleman is using her to while away the time?
For the sake of harmony, she continued to smile and listen. Endure, yes, endure. A true master in endurance is someone who could smile even when she is covered with shit. She would simply let the words enter from the left ear and exit from right ear. There is nothing to it…
Half an hour passed…. another half an hour passed…. her face started to twitch.
“… Let us do this, I will write a prescription for you tonight. If Miss Huang Fu is able to take what I prescribed on a long term basis, I guarantee that you will look thirty even when you are fifty or sixty.”
The only reason she managed to hold on to her composure was because of her long practice in the Art of Endurance. He merely neutralized her poison once, surely there was no need for him to take care of her for the rest of her life?
“Fifth Gentleman is indeed… well-versed in medicine!”
He accepted the praise at face value. “Everyone in Cloud Manor wants to live to a hundred, so it is only right that I spend more effort to understand the properties of different medicines.”
She smiled. “Sometimes, it may not be a good thing to live so long.”
“How could you say so? A person can only hope to fulfill his dreams if he lives long enough. Even if one has no aspirations, he can go look for one - the sky is vast and one will surely find something. For me, my goal in life is to let my brothers stay healthy even when they are seventy or eighty. Just think, if you are able to live a ripe old age with someone that you like, how wonderful would that be…”
She was wrong. She was really wrong.
Another half an hour passed …. endure… she must endure even if her soul is starting to leave her body…
“… of course, nutrition is also effective. If medication is coupled with good nutrition, I can guarantee you that no illness will trouble you. Why not Miss come stay at Cloud Manor? I can let Miss….”
Another half an hour passed as he tried to persuade her to stay. Finally, the thread of her endurance snapped. She took a deep breath and exclaimed loudly: “Gentleman Xian Yun! I am sorry I did not catch you… please excuse me Fifth Gentleman, I think your Gentleman is looking for me.” She marched unsteadily to Gong Sun Yun and ignored the hateful looks thrown her way by Che Yan Yan.
She gave him a big smile as she reached his side: “Gentleman Xian Yun, may I trouble you with something?”
“Miss Yun could speak her mind.”
“As I was walking, I thought I felt the presence of people shadowing us….” She knew that Che Yan Yan’s Sky Slaves were following behind their group and would not appear unless summoned. “What I mean is, there could be tigers or wolves on our trail. Could I trouble to you take a look?”
His lips started to curve upwards but he managed to resist the urge to smile. “I think Miss worries too much.”
“Really?.... is Fifth Gentleman behind us?”
“He is talking with Master He.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. One can never judge a book by its cover. Gong Sun Zhi is in his twenties and looks gentle, refined. But the moment he starts to talk, she does not think she has enough endurance in the world for him.”
She pretended to take a great interest in deity-from-nine-heavens and he helpfully kept the conversation going. Both of them talked about anything and nothing until she noticed Che Yan Yan has lagged behind. However at this stage, she was beyond caring and would rather offend Protector Che than face a long-winded, old coot masquerading as an upright, young man.
“We will be parting in another two days. Is Miss Yun really going back to Bai Ming Sect?”
“That is a given since I am a Protector… although the last ten years have been relatively peaceful and mine is almost an empty title since Sect Leader is holding on the actual power. Nonetheless I should return.”
“I remembered Miss sounded envious when you said I am like a free-floating cloud high up in the skies. If there is another place for you, would Miss be interested to leave Bai Ming Sect?”
This was easier said than done, besides who on earth would have this ability? Even if there was a safe haven, there was no such thing as a free lunch. Is Gong Sun Yun trying to lure her away from Bai Ming Sect, or did he have another motive? What was his intention? Cloud Manor was a neutral entity, was he pointing an out for her simply because she has saved his life before?
She fingered the two broken jade pieces in her sleeve. When she has presented him with four broken pieces that day, he has taken back two pieces while insisting that she keep the remaining two. Nature is indeed cyclical. Before, she has lead him out of the Sky Forrest; now it was his turn to lead her out of the Central Plains.
But what will be, will be.
“Since you are a historian yourself, Gentleman Xian Yun should somewhat understand how Bai Ming Sect operates. Traditionally, both Left and Right Protectors seldom see eye to eye and when one becomes the Sect Leader, the other one will usually end up dead. What do think will be the ending for me and Protector Che?”
At her words, he stopped and looked at her. She returned his look “Gentleman Xian Yun?”
He leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “The Master’s successor has been decided a long time ago, isn’t it so?”
The Master’s successor has indeed been decided a long time ago.
It was her.
Since she was fifteen, she has understood this. No matter where she flees, how she tries to act dumb, that seat has always been waiting for her.
She lowered her eyes and let the night wind play with her robes while the night consumed bright red of her robes.