This chapter has been provided to you by me, ororomunroe90 and leecherleechleech.
More lovey-dovey. I don’t know what else to say.
Chapter Sixty One Bamboo Stick
The assassination attempt against He Heng had caused both the court and the hougong to descend into chaos, yet He Heng himself was at peace. He didn’t have to wake up early to attend court nor did he have to fence with those two bothersome brothers. He saw He Ming, clad in a brown robe, approaching him and a smile appeared on his face, “Today’s weather is pretty good. It’s perfect for going outside.”
He Ming nodded in agreement. The day after er ge was attacked, there had been a rainstorm. Today’s sun was exceptionally bright. Thinking back to last night, after he had finished eating, er ge had invited him for a walk to Bai Yun Mountain. He didn’t hesitate in accepting his invitation. But right now, he noticed that er ge was standing in the courtyard as if he was waiting for someone.
“Yu di heard that there is a Five Estates Monastery on top of Bai Yun Mountain. Many people have visited the area.” He Ming smiled, “It’s just that I’ve never been there.”
“Us brothers are too busy with Court matters. It’s rare that we have free time like now. Let’s go for a nice walk and take a good look around.” He Heng’s tone was relaxed, as though he had never been attacked at all.
Whilst the brothers were talking, an unfamiliar taijian scurried over to bow in front of them: “Wang ye, wang fei said that it’s possible to set off in less than ten minutes.”
He Heng nodded, “Order the servants to prepare the items needed for the outing. We will leave in fifteen minutes.”
He Ming watched the relatively young taijian walk away before hesitantly saying: “Er ge, yu di didn’t know that er sao was going to come, this … …”
“We’re one family, there’s no need to follow protocol for such a minor matter,” He Heng smiled as he patted his shoulder, “You saozi has been married to me for several months. She’d been running the household all this time and hadn’t had a chance to walk around. Today’s weather is so good, wouldn’t it be a disappointment if she stayed in?”
Seeing that er ge really was treating him as one of his own people, He Ming’s heart warmed. He raised his hands together in a fist as he said: “Er ge is right, it was didi who is too much of a zealot.”
Inside Jade Cloud Tower, Qu Qing Ju stepped into her embroidered flat shoes. She was in a good mood as she came out the door with her yahuan. After seeing that both He brothers were waiting for her, she paused before walking rapidly to He Heng and bowed properly to He Ming, “Good morning, si shu.”
“Good morning, er sao.” He Ming hurriedly returned a bow.
Qu Qing Ju retreated half a step, clearly avoiding half his bow. She turned to smile at He Heng: “Has wang ye waited long?” She wasn’t wearing her usual floor-length dress. Instead she had on a short dress that was embroidered with peach blossoms. It was perfect, matching perfectly with the spring sun.
“Did you leave anything behind? If not, we should leave.” He Heng touched the butterfly and flower gold buyao in Qu Qing Ju’s hair. For some reason, even though he hadn’t yet seen the scenery outside, he’d already felt that it was lovely.
Qu Qing Ju shook her head, the buyao gently sliding against He Heng’s palm: “I didn’t leave anything behind. Now is the best time to leave.”
“If that’s so, then let’s go,” He Heng grasped Qu Qing Ju’s hand. He turned to He Ming, “Si di, please.”
“Er ge and er sao first,” He Ming took a step back, slightly lowering his head to indicate his respect for his elder brother and wife.
He Heng smiled at him and walked with Qu Qing Ju in the front. He Ming walked two steps behind. His gaze fell on their backs and he felt admiration. Er ge and er sao had such good feelings for each other. Thinking about his own marriage to the xiaojie from the Luo Family, the Rites Ministry had already started preparing the wedding and He Ming felt expectation bloom in his heart. After his wang fei entered the fu, would they be as affectionate as his brother and his wife?
Sun Hai, following behind He Ming, was also deeply moved. They had said that the Imperial Family had no emotions, but that was only because they hadn’t met the right person. Look at Duan Wang and Duan Wang Fei. This was a real perfect couple, a match made in the Heavens.
As the chief steward of Cheng Wang Fu, even though his ears and eyes might not be considered talented, he knew what he should know. He had heard that there had been a few beautiful women in Duan Wang Fu, but after wang fei entered the fu, a beauty had been sent away but Duan Wang wasn’t dissatisfied with Duan Wang Fei. Even with the matter of Chang De Gong Fu, there hadn’t been any whispers of dissent between the couple.
Maybe it was because Duan Wang was infatuated or perhaps Duan Wang Fei had great skill. But no matter the reason, out of the three Highness’ who were married, only Duan Wang was the subject of the public’s admiration.
As it was quite a hike to reach the top, the servants had prepared the sedans in advance. If their masters became tired, their strength would be required.
After coming out of the range of Fu Lang Mountain, they hadn’t walked far before she saw Bai Yun Mountain. Qu Qing Ju looked at the sign engraved with the three characters of Bai Yun Mountain. She raised her head to gaze at the towering green mountain which appeared especially majestic under the sun.
“What is it, are your legs soft?” He Heng teased as he noticed her look of awe. Smiling, he suggested, “If you don’t want to walk, you can have them carry you.” He pointed at the line of sedans behind them.
Qu Qing Ju slightly raised a brow and reached out to pull his sleeve: “I’m not afraid of going up. I’ll just pull on you.”
He Heng laughed lightly. He whispered into her ear: “If you can’t walk up, I’ll carry you.”
Qu Qing Ju gave him a smile, which instantly disappeared. She looked regretfully at his left arm, “What a pity that wang ye is wounded.”
He Heng: … …
He Ming felt that that his name wasn’t good, for sure. Otherwise, why else would his brother and sao zi act as though he was as clear as a crystal – not existing at all? He shifted his gaze to look at the Five Estates Monastery that was located halfway up the mountain and wondered how much longer it would take to climb.
The couple continued teasing each other before regaining their usual composure and continued their climbing. Both of them knew that the Five Estates Monastery was famous and it would have many visitors. If they met some family members of officials, it would be too embarrassing.
The mountain road was made up of stairs carved directly from the rocks. There was an unspeakable feeling as they stepped on these stairs. As she listened to the birdsong, Qu Qing Ju turned to look back at her progress and felt joy at her accomplishment.
Breathing hard, Qu Qing Ju used a handkerchief to wipe at the fine sweat on her face. She panted: “I didn’t think I’ve ever climbed this many steps before.” She saw He Heng’s face wasn’t red nor was he breathing hard. She felt that it wasn’t fair. Didn’t they say that these imperial sons had no strength, that they only knew how to eat, drink and play? Looking at this calm and composed state of He Heng, was her knowledge faulty?
“Wang ye’s endurance is very good,” Qu Qing Ju reached out to pull on his sleeve so she could climb another step, “How many more?”
“We started learning the six arts when we turned six years old. When I was younger, I liked riding, shooting and polo. You don’t even need strength to climb such a small mountain like this.” He Heng saw her state and wanted the servants to help her onto the sedan. But Qu Qing Ju refused.
“I won’t be defeated,” Qu Qing Ju waved away the servants. She raised her head to look at the seemingly endless stairs, “Continue.”
He Heng smiled helplessly. He looked at her for a beat and extended his palm to her.
Qu Qing Ju slightly lowered her face. She looked at the clean palm in front of her, pausing momentarily before putting her left hand onto his wide palm.
Even the most difficult road would end. Qu Qing Ju finally stepped on the last rock stair. She looked at the black stone path that led to the monastery, breathing heavily. She wiped the sweat off her slightly rosy face and revealed a smile: “Finally here.”
He Heng looked at her, smiled and nodded, “Many wives of the officials and powerful men come to this place from Jing City. Wang fei may be the only woman who has actually walked up the mountain. Today, when you go inside to request a stick, it will be the best one.”
Qu Qing Ju couldn’t believe that He Heng would say such a thing. She stilled before replying: “Wang ye walked up as well. So both of us will get a good stick.”
He Heng reached out to touch her forehead. He found that she hadn’t over-sweated. Relieved, he said: “Husband and wife is one being. When you request a stick, it will represent the both of us.”
Qu Qing Ju thought to herself, who doesn’t know that you feel that it is improper for males to do such things? The smile on her face became even luminous: “Great. With our combined luck, it would be an extremely good stick.”
The three walked to the main gate of the Five Estates Monastery and found that the monastery wasn’t very large in size. It looked very ancient and dignified. A black-bearded master sat near the door, the Buddhist robes on his body slight worn and clean. He didn’t seem to react to their appearance.
The monastery worshiped the Jade Pure One, the Grand Pure One and the Supreme One. Qu Qing Ju, the atheist, started to revere deities after her time travel. After she had entered the hall of the gods through the side door, she knelt down on the praying mat. She bowed then took the jar of sticks and closed her eyes as she shook.
A short while later, a stick dropped out. She scanned it. She found that if the characters were separated, she could recognize them, but she couldn’t understand the meaning of the whole poem. She returned the jar to its original spot, picked up the stick and left through the same door to see the master.
“Please, master, explain this stick to this one,” Qu Qing Ju politely presented the stick with both hands.
The black-bearded master looked at her hands before raising his head to gaze at her face. He stood to take the stick with both hands, a harmonious smile on his face as he requested: “This honoured female, please sit. Wait for this poor Taoist to take a look.”
He Heng saw Qu Qing Ju sit down in front of the black-bearded Taoist and stood to walk up behind Qu Qing Ju, waiting to hear the Taoist’s explanation.
Who knew that the Taoist would take just one look at the stick before placing it to the side. He ran his fingers through his black beard: “The Endless One,[i] recently Jing has encountered great change. Not many have come to the monastery to request sticks. The fact that the two honoured ones have walked up at this time, it might be fate. This Taoist sees that both have brows that are full and light auras. Even if a stick hadn’t been requested, you already have great karma.
“This Taoist has profound wisdom to know that we had walked from just a glance,” Qu Qing Ju smiled, neglecting to mention their supposed great karma.
“This Taoist Xuan Ling has stayed at this monastery for more than half a year. In all of this honoured one’s life, only you two cannot be explained by this Taoist,” The bearded Taoist stood up to bow to them and placed the stick in He Heng’s hand, “This Taoist has failed the two honoured ones’ hopes. I’m ashamed, ashamed.
He Heng took the stick and smiled warmly as he reassured: “Spirit Master Xuan Ling is too serious. The Mandate of Heaven is all around the world. We shouldn’t make things difficult for Spirit Master.
He lowered his head to look at the stick. Written on top was, “Nine mountains quiet green tears flower red, three geng [ii][ii] fire five geng chicken. Feng[iii] flies elegantly, the four seas beg huang.”
A strange stick. The first part was not related to the second. The words did not match, not to mention the lack of any coupling. It was a mess. He Heng handed the stick over to Qu Qing Ju. He didn’t know why women liked believing in this kind of stuff.
[i] The Endless One isn’t actually one of the deities. In Taoism, the three great deities can be called the “Three Endless (Eternal) Ones”. The “One” in the “endless one” is an emphasis on endless (which could be translated as limitless or countless), which is used as one of the most respectful ways of referring to someone and represents the highest and greatest power.
[ii] Geng is equivalent to o’clock. Three geng is the time from 11pm -1am at night. Five geng is the time from 3 to 5 am.
[iii] Feng and huang are two mythical birds, often combined as one being. Feng is male, huang is female. As fenghuang, the being can be translated to be the phoenix.