Joy of Life - Chapter 595 - The Haitang Flower By The Lakeside[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:07]
Chapter 595: The Haitang Flower By The Lakeside
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
That year in Hangzhou, Ye Liuyun had split open a building with one strike. Not long after, Haitang had received an edict from the empress dowager of Northern Qi to immediately return to the North. From them on, Fan Xian had not seen her again. They only exchanged the occasional letter.
The shocking change in the autumn of the seventh year of the Qing calendar completely severed the letters between them. The Northern Qi saint girl, Ku He’s true last disciple, and the present leader of Tianyi Dao disappeared mysteriously without a trace, vanishing from everyone’s eyes.
Even the Northern Qi people seemed to not know where she went. Fan Xian once had the Fourth Bureau of the Overwatch Council and Baoyue Brothel search for information on her all over the world. They still turned up nothing. She had disappeared so thoroughly and completely that it gave one the sense that there had never been a person called Haitang Duoduo.
Fan Xian knew that the woman had once existed. She had to be somewhere in the world watching him and doing something because he had once held her hand and touched her heart.
He had not thought that the vanished Haitang Duoduo would appear on the grasslands to the west of the Qing Kingdom. Or that she would have been there for two years and changed her name to Songzhi Xialing.
“Do you have nothing you want to explain to me?” Fan Xian looked into her eyes. His heart twisted slightly. “For example, why you are here, the matter of the knife, and everything to do with Su Bida.”
Su Bida was the name of the Chief of the Western Hu people. Coming from Fan Xian’s lips, it couldn’t help but carry a strange mockery. It was not strong, but it was particularly piercing. Haitang started slightly and raised her head shortly after. Gently pressing back the loose hair at her temples, she said, “Since you are already here, presumably you know everything. Why are you still asking me?”
Haitang was wearing an outfit of a Hu tribe serving girl and a leather hat on her head. She looked mischievous and cute, particularly with the strands of hair escaping the edges of her cap. She appeared young and beautiful.
Fan Xian’s tone remained icy. “In some matters, what I find is one thing and what you personally tell me is another… My anger is being kept in the dark and used by others. You know what I am like.”
Haitang stilled for a moment. She then pulled her hands from within her clothes and held them in front of her. Very seriously, she inclined her body in a bow toward Fan Xian and said, “My apologies.”
Although it was only two words, it was full of remorse. Fan Xian looked at her without a single change in expression. He also didn’t speak and waited for her to give him an explanation.
“Let us walk.” Haitang didn’t explain why she had come to the grasslands or why those knives appeared in the hands of the Hu aces. She only suggested for the two of them to walk on the boundless grasslands.
Fan Xian was silent for a moment and then said, “Alright.”
Pushing apart the knee-deep grass, the two of them left the path hidden among the grass and walked toward the depths of the grasslands where it was desolate and uninhabited. The autumn sun hung high in the sky. Small bugs moved within the grass. It was quiet all around them and a greenish-yellow as far as the eye could see, stretching endlessly toward the end of the sky.
The man and woman were like two specks between heaven and earth as they walked at a calm speed toward the end of the sky with their hands stuck in their clothes.
If there was nothing else between the heaven and earth, perhaps these two people would be willing to walk on forever as to not talk about matters that would tear one’s heart apart or tell the stories that would gradually distance them from each other.
However, there were blue skies and white clouds above, and wretched autumn grass below. The two of them walked between the empty heaven and earth but were, in the end, still of the mortal world. It was difficult for their present walking posture to be as harmonious as before. Was this not a fearful loss?
“The sect had already seeped into the Western Hu for many years. It just didn’t have much effect. The Hu people always find it difficult to trust strategists from the Central Plain.”
The autumn wind blew gently against Haitang’s rosy cheeks. She sighed lightly and opened her hands, feeling the accepting aura on the grasslands. Quietly, she said, “The Western Hu had been smashed into pieces by the Qing army. It was a difficult matter to turn the Hu people into a power that could stand against the Qing Kingdom or even one that could slow your steps slightly.”
Fan Xian was silent and listened intently.
Haitang walked slowly and looked at the sun hovering above in the distance. Narrowing her eyes, she said, “Two years ago, before my teacher died, he gave this task to me.”
“To help the Chief unify the grasslands and form a country.” Haitang looked at him expressionlessly. “As you know, although the Hu people are talented at fighting, the countless tribes are only under the court’s control in name only. The entirety is as scattered as a dish of sand. If the grasslands cannot be unified and formed into a true country, how can it delay the Qing Kingdom unifying the world?”
Fan Xian laughed coldly and said, “In order to stop the Qing Kingdom, you even set up an entirely new grasslands kingdom. Have you thought about what the Hu people would bring to the world if they truly grew powerful?”
Without waiting for Haitang to speak, he stared into Haitang’s eyes and said, “When we were in Hangzhou, you once reminded that the Hu people had the ambition of wolves and cruelty was in their character. Over a thousand years, they all considered killing an entertainment. I would never have thought that you would give this group of wolves armor to wear. Is the threat of the Qing Kingdom toward you powerful enough that the Tianyi Dao sect is going to give up their purpose?”
Haitang met his gaze without a trace of fear and slowly said, “The development of the grasslands into a country is not something that can be done overnight. My teacher’s calculations were set for 20 years later. I have to admit, when teacher returned heavily injured to Qing Mountain, I was completely shocked. I had never thought that your Emperor would be powerful to such an extent.”
She smiled self-mockingly and said, “Since the expansion of the Qing’s Iron Riders to all over the world had become a fixed certainty, how could the Qi Kingdom be content with being a fish under the knife? It has to think of ways to stall your steps.”
Fan Xian’s brow furrowed. He waved his hand, stopping her explanation. “This plan is indeed vicious and very far thinking. If the court of the grasslands were truly able to become a proper country, the Qing Kingdom would probably never sleep early. Even if we brought down Northern Qi, we would have to constantly worry about the situation in the West. That would will also give you many precious opportunities.”
“But…” he faintly said. “Although I have only glanced at Su Bida from a distance, I know the Chief is like a hawk. He is definitely not a common person. Since Ku He chose him before his death, how did you get him to trust in your plans and follow your strategies?”
“Earlier, you said that the Tianyi Dao had already permeated into the court of the Western Hu people. This had not just been going on for a few days. What made it so that you would be able to do all this?” Fan Xian lowered his head to look at the small leather shoes on Haitang’s feet. “Qi people are already beginning to enter the court of the Western Hu king, managing political affairs for Su Bida and setting strategies. Presumably, other than officials dealing with local affairs, there are some that understand the military affairs of the Qing Kingdom who participate. How did you convince the Hu people to accept these Northern Qi people?”
“Your speaking of people like Wei Wucheng,” Haitang replied lightly. “They are not all Northern Qi people. There are also citizens from Dongyi and the Qing Kingdom.”
Fan Xian looked at her in surprise.
Haitang continued lightly, “These people are capable persons that the Chief hired with a great deal of gold. They don’t know me and or my position in the court. All I have to do is to convince the Chief, a ruler who was as generous as the ocean and sky, that he should be skilled at welcoming all outside wisdom. If one wishes to subdue all places, then one needs citizens from all places.”
Fan Xian’s brows were furrowed tightly. Looking at her, he said, “But you still haven’t explained why Su Bida, this man of great ambition, would listen and obey your words. You have to know that within the tribes of the Hu people, women never have much status.”
Haitang smiled slightly, a trace of amusement suddenly appeared on her plain face. Looking at Fan Xian, she asked, “Do you think that I used the honey trap?”
Fan Xian paused, not sure how to comment. He had long discovered the Chief secretly entering Haitang’s tent at night on more than one occasion. It was clear the Chief has some kind of feeling for Haitang.
Haitang laughed. Looking into Fan Xian’s eyes, she sighed and said, “I wasn’t born as pretty as you. Even if I wanted to use the honey trap, I don’t have the capital.”
Suddenly, a strange thing happened between the two of them. When Haitang sighed about Fan Xian’s appearance, her arm seemed to rise up involuntarily. Her trembling fingertips touched Fan Xian’s face, sliding an inch across it. The contact between the tip of her fingers and the skin of his face was piercing. It touched the deepest emotion in their hearts.
When the two of them realized that such a warm moment had happened, they immediately froze. Fan Xian’s body felt stiff as he raised his left hand with difficulty and grasped the hand next to his face. He grasped it and did not let it go again.
Being held by Fan Xian’s warm hand, Haitang’s body was also a little stiff.
“I have realized that our gait is no longer as harmonious as it was before.” Fan Xian held her hand and said quietly. “Perhaps the arc of our swing is not the same. If we held hands, would it be better?”
“But, our steps are still not the same.” Haitang’s expression was a peaceful and quiet smile, but her voice carried endless regret and disappointment.
“We have to try.” Fan Xian did not acknowledge what she was thinking. Holding her hand, he continued to stroll into the depths of the grasslands. There were only the two of them between the heaven and the earth, at least in this moment, so why speak of this unhappy things?
“Are you jealous?” Haitang half-leaned against Fan Xian’s shoulder. Their hands were tightly clasped on their bodies. It was as if they were afraid the other person would suddenly let go.
They were now sitting on a meadow. Below the meadow was a small lake. Across the lake was a gradually setting sun. The golden light of dusk shone on the surface of the water and drew a line of gold. A few wild ducks swept across the surface of the water with their strange cries.
The emotions and scenery were familiar, like they were still in Jiangnan. It was still the two of them by the lakeside.
“What am I jealous about?” Fan Xian said with distaste. “Su Bida was able to, within a few short years, subdue both the Left and Right Virtuous Princes and expand the strength of the court across the grasslands. Although he had your help with it, he is still incredible.”
“In the end, you are still jealous,” Haitang said with a slight smile. There was no pride that would usually be on a woman’s face or a trace of discomfort. It was as if she was telling a truth.
Without waiting for Fan Xian reply, Haitang leaned her head against his shoulder. This woman’s shoulders had carried too much since her youth. Although no one knew how old she was or where she was born, the identity of the Northern Qi saint girl and heir of Tianyi Dao gave her no choice but to shoulder all of it. There would be a day she grew tired and wished to remove the heavy burden on her shoulders and lean against a reliable shoulder, such as right now.
“I came to the grasslands from the North. I am called Songzhi Xianling. I am a lost princess from the Ka’erna tribe.” Haitang stared in a daze at the setting sun across from the little lake. “On the grasslands in the North, I helped many people and led the last group of tribes moving south and came to the Western Hu. The members of the tribes that had come south earlier acknowledged my identity as the princess of the Ka’erna tribe, so the Chief had to take me seriously. At least at the beginning, he had to think about the power that stood behind me.”
“Ka’erna?” Fan Xian turned his head and looked at her bright forehead. Faintly, he said, “So you took a roundabout route in order to not arouse Su Bida’s suspicious. Ku He put a lot of thought into this.”
Although Haitang had made it sound simple, Fan Xian knew that although the Northern Man had been forced to move south because of the icy might of heaven, they still had left tens of thousands of riders on the grasslands. For Haitang to be recognized as a leader by the nobility of the Northern tribes, she had to have paid a great price.
Chief Su Bida’s court had been able to sweep aside all resistance on the grasslands in such a short time because he ignored the opinion of the masses and accepted his brothers from the Northern grassland. Thus, he had obtained the support of those tens of thousands of Northern Man riders.
Looking at it now, it seemed that this support also had something to do with Haitang.
“You are the saint girl of Northern Qi, but you’ve suddenly become the saint girl of the Northern tribes. Are you not afraid that someone will expose your identity?” Fan Xian asked in a quiet voice. “I believe in your intelligence and ability. The Chief is certainly dependent on your help, particularly after seeing some results, but your identity is always a huge problem.”
“Expose what identity?” Haitang straightened her body and smiled slightly. “Expose me as the heir of Tianyi Dao?”
Fan Xian thought that she was correct. Even if Chief Su Bida knew of Duoduo’s true identity, it would not have any effect on his decision. But what about the tens of thousands of riders from the Northern tribes? They were Haitang’s greatest strength within the Western Hu matter. If they found out that this princess from the Ka’erna tribe was a fake, what would happen?
Logically speaking, if Haitang’s identity was exposed and the Northern Qi people’s conspiracy was shattered, it would be something Fan Xian and the Qing people would be happy to see. For some reason, Fan Xian believed Haitang would not make such a mistake. Rather, perhaps the already dead Master Ku He would not have forgotten a part that could easily go wrong. He quietly listened to Haitang’s explanation.
“What do you know of Ka’erna?”
“Previously, they were the royal tribe in the Northern grasslands. Decades ago, they were wiped out by Commander Zhang Qingfeng. From then on, the Northern tribes have been without a leader. With Shang Shanhu guarding the gate North, that is why there haven’t been any major issues.”
Haitang watched his eyes calmly and said, “What did you use to love asking me?”
Fan Xian’s brows were furrowed tightly. He was unsure what these two questions had in common. It was important, so he thought seriously and said hesitantly a moment later, “I loved to ask, how old you are.” He smiled. “Although I am not opposed to a love between an older woman and a younger man, I am also afraid that you are 45 years old and relying on the art of freezing your face to trick such pitiful people as me. If an old cow eats tender grass, is the tender grass not innocent?”
A red blush appeared on Haitang’s face and disappeared in an instant. Shortly after, she smiled and said, “I never answered you because I don’t know how old I am.”
Fan Xian was silent. He knew that Haitang was an orphan. She had been carefully looked after by Master Ku He since a young age and had been brought up by him.
“I am 19 this year.” Haitang suddenly stared seriously into his eyes. “My mother was a princess that escaped from Ka’erna’s court.”
Fan Xian didn’t hear these words clearly. He thought quietly to himself, 19? When he had given her an aphrodisiac by the Northern Sea, she had only been 14? Was he teasing a Lolita or harming a teenager? This girl was indeed younger than him… Wait! Princess? Mother? Ka’erna court?
He abruptly stood up, not daring to look directly at Haitang. She sat hugging her knees, looking at the dancing ducks on the lake with a peaceful expression like she did not realize what an astonishing secret she had just told Fan Xian.
“You… are… actually the princess of Ka’erna tribe.”
Fan Xian spoke with a trembling voice. When it came to the grasslands, he was able to calculate everything with perfect clarity and had laid out all the counters to the plan that Ku He had left behind. Even exposing Haitang’s identity had the appropriate moment had been one part of his plans.
He would never have guessed that Haitang was not relying on a false identity to influence the Chief and secretly help the grasslands court create a country. Instead, she was actually a princess.
Haitang hugged her knees and laid her head gently on them. Looking at the golden light on the lake in front of her, a perplexed expression appeared in her eyes. Quietly, she said, “You are indeed more composed than I am. When I heard of my past from my teacher two years ago, my reaction was much more powerful than yours.”