Chapter 53: Comings and Goings
Once Ye Yin returned to his residence, the sky was already dark. The moment he entered, he was greeted with the sight of Lanzhi sitting in the hall, her mouth pouting, eyes glaring. Ye Yin frowned, sighing inwardly. It seemed Lanzhi was going to lecture him again.
Just as he expected, the moment she saw him, Lanzhi humphed. “You’re finally back?”
“Lanzhi, please don’t use such an accusatory tone, it makes my hair stand on end.”
Lanzhi brightened upon hearing the helplessness in his voice, However, she straightened her expression out immediately. “That’s exactly why I talk like that. You didn’t even tell us beforehand. Everyone had to wait so long for you all for no reason.”
“I did not know it would take so much time, and you were taking your afternoon nap at the time. I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“Yeah right. Didn’t want to wake me up? You mean you were afraid I would follow you. Geez, trying to sweet talk me.” Lanzhi stood up. “Did you eat dinner? Huh? You drank?”
Ye Yin nodded. “Yes, I drank a little.”
“Humph! You must have drank a lot, otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to sneak in so discreetly.” Her eyes flashing, she changed her expression, her voice all girly. “Husband, you… you drank wine with courtesans? Husband, you’ve been corrupted!”
“Lazhi!” Ye Yin didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Please, you pull this stunt every day. Don’t you know when to stop with your antics? I get goosebumps when you’re like this.”
Lanzhi leaned in and whispered into Ye Yin’s ear, “If you know I’m just joking, you can just ignore me. Why do you care so much every time? I really wonder what it is that you’re so afraid of.” She then switched to a weeping expression. “Husband… did you… did you really go out drinking with courtesans?”
Seeing Lanzhi’s eyes matching her sorrowful expression, Ye Yin shook his head. He couldn’t stand it any more. “Enough. Every farce is worse than the last!”
“Husband, are you criticizing me?” Lanzhi’s beautiful eyes were filled with tears. She looked like she would cry any moment now. She simply took two steps back and said bitterly, “Are you… going to break up with me? Am I not important to you any more?”
“Lanzhi!” Ye Yin frowned. “Lazhi, are you really going to continue this farce? You won’t regret it?”
Lanzhi’s expression changed back immediately. She pouted, “No fun! You ran off without a word, worrying us so much, but now… Why can’t I just tease you for just a moment?”
Ye Yin shook his head helplessly. “It’s not that you can’t, but… Enough. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have left for so long without telling you before hand. However, I did not drink with courtesans, I just visited the Fragrant Wisp restaurant. I met a man and we started talking about business, that’s all. Are you satisfied with this explanation? Lanzhi, I’m really not used to a woman acting like a spoiled child, giving seductive looks, so can you please stop?”
In the past four years, Lanzhi maintained the image of a deeply attached, pampered wife. Every time, she would challenge him to the limit. Often, whenever Lanzhi acted cutesy and charming, Ye Yin would get goosebumps. For a woman to display affection knowing that he was a woman made him shiver.
Although he knew that Lanzhi was acting, teasing him, he still couldn’t bear it. It seemed to be his weak point. He didn’t know when Lanzhi had discovered it, but he really felt powerless whenever she teased him. Was it really that fun to tease him? Lanzhi never seemed to tire of it.
Actually, Ye Yin had on worried. He was afraid that as the farce continued, Lanzhi might really fall for him. He was also afraid of forgetting his own gender. He had married Lanzhi with no choice. He owed Lanzhi so much already, he did not want her to give up true happiness for him. He could not give her happiness, but he hoped Lanzhi would be happy in the future.
“What are you blanking out for?” Lanzhi gave him a nudge. “I asked, did you eat yet?”
Ye Yin returned to his senses, smiling. “I ate.”
Lanzhi suddenly turned serious, looking at Ye Yin solemnly. “Little Qi. I have been happy with you the past four years.”
Ye Yin did not understand. “What is it? Why are you saying this out of the blue?”
“Little Qi, I know you will never like me, but I like you.” With her head lowered, Ye Yin could not see her expression. He froze. What was she doing? Acting? But she never acted while calling him “Little Qi” before.
Lanzhi continued, “One year ago, you married me to quell rumors. However, this one years time that we were married has been the most happiest year of my life. You protect me, spoil me. You won’t let even a hair on my head be harmed. So, Little Qi, thanking for taking care of me these past few years.”
She didn’t seem to be acting, her tone of voice normal. Lanzhi’s words left Ye Yin a little unsettled. It was as if she was saying her last goodbyes to him. What exactly happened?
Ye Yin reached out and gripped Lanzhi’s shoulder. Currently, her shoulder was shaking. He couldn’t help but feel suspicious. Was this girl secretly laughing? Her tricks were getting more and more outrageous!
Although he was suspicious, he asked her in a low voice, “Lanzhi, is something the matter?”
“Little QI, do you still care about me?” Lanzhi still had not raised her head, only speaking faintly.
“Of course. If I don’t care about you, who does? Tell me, what happened? Did someone bully you?”
Gently brushing away Ye Yin, Lanzhi said bitterly. “Husband, will you divorce me?”
Ye Yin froze. Immediately, he was fuming with anger. He stomped his foot. “Lanzhi, you play me for a fool!”
Lanzhi was already outside the door. She giggled, sticking out her tongue. “Dummy, you think that’s the only way I act? My skills increase every time!”
“I just didn’t eat dinner with you, is there such a need to… is teasing me really that fun?” Ye Yin fumed angrily.
“Of course!” Lanzhi fiddled with a stray piece of thread. “They say that it is very rare to see the expression of West Zhi’s prime minister change, but it seems like nothing to me. With just a few words, you have such a bitter expression. Is this the rumored young minister who always smiles like faint spring winds?”
Ye Yin slowly smiled. “Lanzhi, it seems you’re bored in the house, so bored that you specialize in teasing me for entertainment?”
“No!” Seeing Ye Yin’s eerie smile, Lanzhi hastily took a step back. “Don’t come over here, I, I…. Ah, right, Du Luo came. He’s in the back courtyard. Do you want to see him?”
Ye Yin raised a brow, slowly walking towards the door. Seeing Lanzhi preparing to escape, he laughed. “Lanzhi, so you prepared a shield beforehand! But…”
Seeing Ye Yin’s profound smile before he turned and left, Lanzhi felt an ominous feeling arise. Was he going to take revenge?
As the white figure disappeared into the veranda, Lanzhi let out a long sigh. If only he was an actual man!
In truth, Lanzhi did not know what her true feelings towards Ye Yin were any more. He seemed to be her family, but also her lover. She liked the warm sense of family that Ye Yin gave her, and she also liked how Ye Yin pampered her before others. It was as if he were his treasure. She knew Ye Yin’s true gender, she also knew she would not fall for a woman, but she always unconsciously treated him as a man. Sometimes, she felt as if she were in a dream with Ye Yin. The dream was always an illusion, but she couldn’t help but wish the dream would last longer.
In four years, Ye Yin had become more aloof, distanced from others. The time he spent in his study grew longer and longer. The time he spent facing the sky silently also grew. At times, Ye Yin was physically standing right next to her, but she felt as if she couldn’t touch him. He always smiled faintly, but the smile was becoming more and more illusory. The smile was gentle, very weak and remote, so much so that Lanzhi had started to become afraid when he smiled, because although he smiled like spring wind, the depths of his eyes were filled with loneliness, filled with grief.
Whenever Ye Yin had to make the decision to kill for West Zhi, Ye Yin would also smile faintly, and Lanzhi would feel like crying. She wanted to cry for Ye Yin, she wanted to cry for the person who could not and would not cry. Because of this, Lanzhi almosted hated that Wen Yuanbo, even though she had not met him before. Because of this, she ignored the puppet emperor, Hua Jianli.
Because of this, she would always try to think of ways to tease him. Even if he was angry to the point of stomping his foot, it was better to see him that way instead of his tranquil, constant expression.
Would he retaliate? Hopefully, he wouldn’t be too mean. Lanzhi muttered to herself, then turned and walked to her bedroom. Tonight, he would definitely have a long discussion with Du Luo. She would just find those four servant girls. The four girls didn’t dare to provoke their master, but she would take the lead!
When Ye Yin arrived at the courtyard, Du Luo was already reclining on the roof alone, pouring wine from a jar into his mouth. Seeing the row of jars behind him, Ye Yin smiled, jumping onto the roof.
After he seated himself next to Du Luo, Ye Yin grabbed one of the jars and unsealed it, taking a swig. “When did you arrive.”
“In the afternoon. Unfortunately, you weren’t here, so I just came up here by myself.”
“You stayed on the rooftop the entire afternoon?” Ye Yin was flabbergasted.
“Am I that foolish?” Du Luo cast a sidelong glance. “To wait here without eating?”
Chuckling, Ye Yin took another swig. He said seriously, “Brother Du, thank you for the past four years.”
Glancing at Ye Yin, Du Luo said, “Since when were you so pretentious? Did you get it from Hua Jianli?”
“What do you mean!” Ye Yin smacked Du Luo’s shoulder lightly. “I am genuinely grateful. Without your help, I wouldn’t have lasted these past four years. I wouldn’t have been able to suppress those major clans in West Zhi without you, so Brother Du, I thank you sincerely.”
“Since when did brothers need to thank each other?” Du Luo stood up, gently patting Ye Yin’s head. “Little Qi, these last four years have passed by exhaustingly for you. Just seeing this saddens my heart. You should have never befriended Hua Jianli.”
Laughing, Ye Yin’s eyes went distant. As if recollecting, he smiled and said, “The day I met Hua Jianli, I was only ten years old. At that time, I had not gotten used to this world. I had enclosed myself in my own little world. Aside from Chun Ri and the other three, I was deeply guarded against others, watching the world with a cold eye. I never felt sympathy nor cared for others.”
Suddenly, Ye Yin turned to Du Luo. “Brother Du, I am actually a very cold person.”
Du Luo never heard Ye Yin talk about how he and Hua Jianli met before, and was even less aware of Ye Yin’s childhood. He spoke quietly, his voice bitter and desolate. Did this mean that his childhood was…
Ye Yin lowered his gaze. “When I was seven, the grandfather I loved dearly died. I lived alone in anguish for three years. Brother Du, actually, before I was thirteen, no one visited me except sixth brother, including my mother. She later visited me, but only upon sixth brother’s urging. She had lost the love of her husband, haggard. I originally did not want to meet her, but she was still my mother. I could not bear to see her so grieved, so I helped her win back father’s heart.”
The true Zi Yinye had a serious illness at the age of seven, and then she had awoken in the child’s body. When she awoke, she had been terrified. She could not tell what had happened, not able to understand why she would be trapped in a little girl’s body. At the time, she was utterly helpless. She could feel happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy from within the little girl’s body and gradually started to speak with the girl. Gradually, she became accustomed to this world. She viewed the world through this girl’s eyes and thought she would accompany this girl for the rest of her life, but… Nothing lasts forever. When the beloved grandfather passed away, the grieved owner of the body disappeared with him.
Ever since then, it was just her in the body. She was all alone now! Fortunately, she was the one who remained. If the true Zi Yinye were the one who remained, then she would never be able to live safely without her grandfather’s protection!
It was a dog eat dog world.
“Little Qi, stop thinking of those unhappy things.”
Ye Yin shook his head. “Brother Du, I miss Mother! Although I am not important to her, I still miss her. I want to know if she is fine, if she angered second mother or third mother, if father lost his love for her… She only has me, her daughter. I don’t know if sixth brother supported her in my place…”
“Enough, Little Qi. You’ve done enough for her. If it weren’t for her, that year, you wouldn’t have been married to…”
Du Luo was visibly trembling with anger. Ye Yin cut him enough. “Alright, I’ll stop talking about it. I’ll tell you how I met Hua Jianli. I met him at home. Guess why he was in my house.”
“Definitely nothing good! He either tried to steal something, or he try to peek at the renowned beauty of Dongling.”
Chuckling, Ye Yin replied, “Brother Du, don’t think that low of him, alright? However, he was indeed there to steal something from my house, but he got lost. Furthermore, he wasn’t able to find anything valuable.”
Du Luo snorted. “Humph! Your house is so big, it’s natural he would get lost. However, to not be able to find anything valuable, he sure is stupid! Which one of the rooms in your house doesn’t have something valuable? Did he even need to look? If he grabbed anything, it would be worth a lot of money.”
“Yes, brother Jianli thought that all healthy people lock away their valuables in a secret room, so he spent a lot of time trying to find it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find it. Instead, he arrived at my little courtyard. Then, we met.”
As Ye Yin narrated, he smiled subconsciously. Du Luo interjected, “Did you help him find something to steal?”
“Yeah!” Ye Yin smiled brightly. “Over the next few days, I directed him what to steal. Gradually, we became friends. During those days, my father was extremely depressed, unable to sleep well, because no matter how many guards or reinforcements he had, things would be stolen.”
“You helped someone loot your own family. How magnanimous.”
Ye Yin arched back to take another large swig. “Actually, the most plentiful thing in the world is money.”
Indeed, the world had plentiful money. As long as one could work, one could make money, but once affection is lost, it is hard to win back, so one must determine what is most important to them.
Du Luo fell silent. Ye Yin continued, “After I became acquainted with brother Jianli, we started ‘Fusheng’ together. Because of Fusheng, he had to look after our shops, so my family’s thief disappeared.”
Du Luo glanced at Ye Yin. “Don’t tell me that Hua Jianli left a portion of the stolen items to you.”
Ye Yin smiled without reserve. “Yes, otherwise how could I start ‘Fusheng’? Hua Jianli stole my family’s stuff, so a portion of it should go to me!”
Du Luo shook his head. “Thank goodness your father doesn’t know, otherwise he would be angered to death!”
Ye Yin lowered his gaze, speaking slowly and quietly. “If he were angry, that would mean he remembered my existence. I would rather he was angry instead of not paying attention to me, but… the feeling of being forgotten, of being abandoned sure is hard to bear.”
In the darkness, Du Luo could not see Ye Yin’s expression, but he could clearly sense the anguish Ye Yin emitted. He said to him tenderly, “Are you still suffering?”
Ye Yin shook his head. “Not any more!”
No! Not any more, he had already forgotten it.
Ye Yin closed his eyes. The feelings of anguish were actually all the real Zi Yinye’s. A seven year old girl, a girl who longed for parental love, disappeared sorrowfully following her grandfather’s death, while her feelings remained.
She still remembered finding her in that corner, facing her all by her lonesome. “Big sis, grandfather is not here anymore. I will leave you. In the future, you must live in my place. If you can, please take care of my mother so she won’t be bullied!”
The seven year old girl was keen and mature. The seven year old girl was also frail and helpless. She watched as the little girl’s soul gradually disappeared, distinctly sensing the memories and emotions meld into her own soul. From then on, she would carry on for the girl.
Lying on the rooftop, Ye Yin did not understand why he had suddenly thought of all this. Was the pressure on him too heavy? Or… maybe it was because of Lanzhi, the woman who loved to tease him, who left him not knowing whether to laugh or cry. In truth, he was aware of Lanzhi’s intentions, so he never pointed it out. Lanzhi wanted to see his true emotions! But it was difficult to take off the mask after wearing it for so long.
Now, Lanzhi was considered family!
Rubbing his temples, Ye Yin had a helpless expression. Although sometimes he would go along with the farce, he truly hated it! In order to stop Lanzhi from playing this trick, he would have to give her a lesson!
“What are you thinking about? Why did you stop talking? Are you still sad?”
“No, I was just thinking why I would recall all these things I had already forgotten.” Ye Yin smiled silently. “Brother Du, you should stop blaming brother Jianli. Although I have worked tirelessly these past four years, they were very fruitful, no? Haha! Speaking of brother Jianli, he should be more sad than I am now!”
“Serves him right!” Du Luo humphed. He had always been dissatisfied with Hua Jianli, because Hua Jianli had led Ye Yin to the dangerous path of reuniting a country. If it weren’t for him, Ye Yin would be living happily, not working tirelessly. If it weren’t for him, Ye Yin wouldn’t be carrying so many lives on his back, with hidden grief from the depths of his eyes!
For a thirteen or fourteen year old girl to reunite a country!
“Haha, don’t say that. Brother Jianli has a real headache because of the newly conferred imperial concubines. He has already refused to acknowledge me for several days!”