Chapter 6 … After all, each stroke of the brush portrayed those last ten years cherished within her heart.
Gu Hong Jian reminisced. She realized that she and Lin Si Ze have known each other for 20 years, yet not once had Lin Si Ze spoken to her with love.
Contrarily, the amount of times he spoke to her with hatred or loathing was simply abundant.
Though admittedly, she also hadn’t ever spoken to Lin Si Ze with love.
The number of times she spoke to him with hatred or loathing eclipsed even the frequency Lin Si Ze spoke negatively towards her by far.
Lin Si Ze was, in fact, a very honest and blunt man. Although he often appeared to be inscrutable, his feelings of love and hatred were very clearly conveyed. If he spoke with hate, it was precisely hatred. If he spoke with love, it was precisely love.
He loved Zuo Ning Yan, so he painted her and wrote poems about her. With her reddened eyes in mind, any thoughts of her would bring up deep love, gentleness, and cherished memories, as if he was reminiscing about the heavenly moon.
Gu Hong Jian’s personality was vastly different. Every time she had a large fight with Lin Si Ze, she would spew fierce words, saying, “‘Lin Si Ze, I loathe you!’ ‘Lin Si Ze, why don’t you go to hell?’ ‘Lin Si Ze, I want to kill you.’ ‘Lin Si Ze, I hate you…’”
Even though in truth, her heart would always say, “Lin Si Ze, I like you.”
This essentially was a certain unique tsundere characteristic.
At first, the cold winter of Wànshùn Year 30 brimmed with famine for who knew how long. The spring of Wànshùn Year 31 had ended up arriving slowly. Gu Hong Jian and Lin Si Ze truly met each other for the first time then. How could Gu Hong Jian have anticipated that their relationship would change in such a direction in the future?
If she had known of the future, she wouldn’t have slacked off and ran off to an empty palace instead of sweeping the floor late at night in accordance to her slavery. She wouldn’t have ended up meeting Teacher Meng, who had broken through security and climbed over the palace walls.
Gu Hong Jian naturally wouldn’t expect such events to occur in the future though. Her stay in the palace was rapidly approaching two years. Nearly seven years old, Gu Hong Jian had laid down her broom and slipped away to a corner of a cold, empty palace. She hid up in a tree to slack off and rest.
She then saw a figure nimbly climb over the wall before noiselessly dropping to the ground as gracefully as a purebred Persian cat would. That person appeared to be rather tall and wore black clothes from head to toe, giving a slight impression of a demonic spirit. Gu Hong Jian jolted, scared upon seeing him. She accidentally knocked over the broom beside her. In a few seconds, that man flashed towards Gu Hong Jian’s side. His gaze was ice-cold, as if he was going to take Gu Hong Jian’s life at any moment.
Upon seeing that the curled up Gu Hong Jian was merely a little girl, however, that man paused before immediately inquiring, “Are you a palace maid?”
Gu Hong Jian was frightened, tears streaming down her face. She didn’t dare to look at him, so she tightly closed her eyes. “Yes. But I didn’t see anything, so don’t kill me.”
The other person felt amused, retorting, “And if I absolutely want to kill you?”
“Then, then I’ll scream. If someone discovers you…” Gu Hong Jian didn’t need to continue her threat.
That man appeared to be quite appreciative as he said, “For such a young age, your courage and cleverness are actually rather great. It’s a pity that you’re a girl.”
’It’s a pity that you’re a girl.’ Gu Hong Jian had heard this line very many times.
She grew up very bright and hardworking, helping her parents with work and such. There always seemed to be someone, however, who would sigh and say, “It’s a pity that you’re a girl.”
After her younger brother was born, this sentence cropped up even more frequently until the flood struck. Her parents as well as her younger brother dropped her like a hot brick. She could only watch as her tearful mother said, “It’s a pity that you’re a girl.”
Gu Hong Jian’s heart was absolutely aggrieved, but she also had no other choice. A man could better his standing by castrating himself to become a palace eunuch. How could she do this?
After entering the emperor’s palace, contrary to expectations, she gradually began to think that unlike a man who must become a eunuch to enter the palace, she entered unscathed and was thus truly, exceedingly fortunate…
At this moment, however, this black-clothed man’s statement rejuvenated the indescribable anger residing in Gu Hong Jian. She yelled, “So what if I’m a girl?! You, your mother—is she not a woman?!”
Gu Hong Jian was very young, so her knowledge and experience was also lacking. Her retort had the man bursting out with unrestrained laughter. He said after, “En, your words are right. Little lady, I like you. My question to you is, do you want to become more powerful than even a man?”
Gu Hong Jian was dumbstruck. She didn’t know why this guy posed such a question all of a sudden, but she was unable to resist the allure. She guilelessly responded, “I want.”
That man nodded in satisfaction. “Then do you want to learn martial arts to protect yourself and also to protect others?”
That man’s gaze fell onto the broom beside Gu Hong Jian. He continued, “Then, do you want to have torrential, heavenly power, to be above all others but under him, to have no one able of humiliating you, to have no one capable of deciding your fate—on the contrary, do you want to be the only one in control of your fate?”
This was something Gu Hong Jian had never thought of, but she still couldn’t help but be fired up as she repeated, “I want.” She then doubtfully said, “Above all others but under him? Under who?”
That man smirked. “You are indeed clever. That person… I will take you to see him now. Little lady, what’s your name?”
”Gu Hong Jian.” Gu Hong Jian naively answered as at that time, she had already given into this black-clothed man’s fantasy, becoming docile. She didn’t even consider whether he was speaking empty promises.
”Hong Jian? Good name. My surname is Meng. In the future, I will be teaching you many things, so you can call me Teacher Meng.”
Teacher Meng laughed, drawing the very little Gu Hong Jian towards him. He then, without the slightest scruple, flipped back over the wall with barely any force. Gu Hong Jian, alarmed, quickly became faint. But this once again gave rise to a one of a kind, indescribable satisfaction and anticipation.
Inevitably, there would be a day where she would also be able to do this. She would not be carried by another, instead relying on her own power!
She later realized Teacher Meng had taken her to a rarely visited place—Bai Fu Palace.
That place was Lin Si Ze’s small palace—the word “small” definitely being a realistic and true description. Bai Fu Palace previously belonged to Lin Si Ze’s birth mother, and it became his after she passed away.
In any case, two years quickly passed by within the palace. Gu Hong Jian naturally knew she was in that unlucky, damned Lin Si Ze’s domain. She was extremely stunned, but Lin Si Ze was already waiting in the vicinity of Bai Fu Palace—in the middle of the night. His Bai Fu Palace also didn’t have any men standing vigil outside for the night. There was only him, only his lonely person.
Seeing Teacher Meng arrive, Lin Si Ze revealed a happy expression at first before he saw Gu Hong Jian being carried in Teacher Meng’s arms, his face exposing a hellish expression.
Teacher Meng set down Gu Hong Jian. Patting Gu Hong Jian’s head, he asked, “Do you recognize him?”
How could Gu Hong Jian have expected the person Teacher Meng spoke of “being under” would actually be Lin Si Ze? She once again thought of that Winter Solstice of Wànshùn Year 30 and immediately felt a bit confused, but she still honestly nodded her head. “En, I know.”
Gu Hong Jian performed the customary etiquette towards Lin Si Ze, saying, “Greetings, Sixth Prince.”
Lin Si Ze didn’t pay attention to her, instead looking towards Teacher Meng and saying, “Uncle Meng, she is?”
”Oh, I came across this small palace maid on the way here. I have said that you must have someone to support you. I think she will fit,” Teacher Meng replied.
Lin Si Ze’s expression was rather subtle, but he still nodded. “Thank you, Uncle Meng.”
Some time later, Gu Hong Jian understood what was finally going on.
Although Lin Si Ze’s mother was merely a palace maid, she actually had an engagement prior to entering the palace. Reportedly, it was to their village’s private school teacher——a man who was not only remarkably intellectual, but his martial arts were even more outstanding, a peerless master——that master being Teacher Meng. Teacher Meng heard news of Lin Si Ze’s mother’s death from outside the palace. Extremely sorrowful, he dashed towards the palace to search for Lin Si Ze. Upon seeing him living in extreme suffering, he distressingly resolved to take Lin Si Ze and leave.
But Lin Si Ze immediately refused.
When Gu Hong Jian asked him why, he answered, “Because rather than escaping to a common life, I would rather conceal my strengths and bide my time in taking my revenge and wiping out my grudges.”
At that time, the bigotry he faced was extreme, so he hated everyone within the palace. His sole reason for living was to one day punish those people.
Punishing those who abandoned his loving mother, the late Emperor for assigning her to meet with a violent death within the palace, those who humiliated him, the brothers and servants who held him in contempt…
Although Gu Hong Jian also wanted a lofty station, she didn’t fall into Lin Si Ze’s extreme way of thinking. She did, however, ask about this business, and as she was already following Lin Si Ze obediently, she basically didn’t give much thought to Lin Si Ze’s extreme thinking. Instead, she praised his thinking as wonderful, leaving Lin Si Ze at a bit of a loss on how to reply.
Lin Si Ze was unwilling to die. He wanted to take revenge and to ascend to the highest position possible. As a result, Teacher Meng resolved to help him. He was from outside the palace, however, and was only one man. Even if his martial arts were excellent, the frequently mobile harem was, in the end, inconvenient. Furthermore, although Bai Fu Palace was in a remote area, it was still rather deep inside the palace. Teacher Men would need to pass through a lot of places that weren’t so remote to reach it.
Thus, after coming across Gu Hong Jian, Teacher Meng made up his mind and decided that since this one was of similar age to Lin Si Ze and appeared to have similar experiences to him, this little yā tou1 could become Lin Si Ze’s helper.
Gu Hong Jian thought to herself, I still saved his life. It seems that everything is foreordained by the heavens. She had already begun helping long before now.
But as a matter of fact, despite Lin Si Ze promising to have Gu Hong Jian help him, he was very discontent with Gu Hong Jian. It could be said that he absolutely didn’t want a so-called helper. On the other hand, he also felt that this petite, slightly dumbstruck girl before him didn’t look like she could become his helper.
At that time, Lin Si Ze was still not tactful. Consequently, not long after, Gu Hong Jian learned of Lin Si Ze’s thoughts and became angry. Immediately, she began thinking of tactics to make Lin Si Ze realize that she could be very helpful.
Due to all of this brainstorming, however, Gu Hong Jian hadn’t told Lin Si Ze or Teacher Meng of other happenings of that Winter Solstice night. Her intuition told her that Lin Si Ze was not the type of person who liked old wounds being opened.
Teacher Meng taught Gu Hong Jian two martial arts. Both were very basic skills, but Gu Hong Jian frequently practiced these even in extremely cold or hot weather. Even though she punished her own body frequently, her good health and strong fortitude unexpectedly pleased Teacher Meng.
Unaware of how Teacher Meng and Lin Si Ze accomplished this, Gu Hong Jian was quickly transferred to Lin Si Ze’s place. Lin Si Ze’s allowance of silver tael was embezzled all the time, and his position was the absolute lowest, so who would actually want to go there? Gu Hong Jian was transferred with ease.
To Gu Hong Jian, her new life was very difficult, but she also had more freedom following Lin Si Ze. Thus, nothing really changed greatly for her.
Lin Si Ze’s attitude towards Gu Hong Jian was not particularly good, however.
In actuality, Lin Si Ze’s attitude towards Gu Hong Jian was neither good or bad; he just didn’t trust her, that was all.
Gu Hong Jian merely felt that Lin Si Ze didn’t like being disturbed. Since he didn’t acknowledge her, she simply didn’t acknowledge Lin Si Ze.
Anyway, she was brought by Teacher Meng, and as Lin Si Ze listened to Teacher Meng a great deal; if Teacher Meng wanted her here, she could stay here——young Gu Hong Jian’s reasoning was clear and straightforward.
Originally, she was somewhat afraid of Lin Si Ze, but seeing how Lin Si Ze was always ignoring her, Gu Hong Jian became extremely angry. After calming down and thinking for a while, sh reasoned that since Lin Si Ze refused to acknowledge her, she would also refuse to acknowledge Lin Si Ze.
Not only did she refuse to acknowledge Lin Si Ze, sometimes she even bullied him.
She, like the previous palace maids, deliberately didn’t help Lin Si Ze deliver the clothes to be washed, nor did she help Lin Si Ze collect the clothes, bedsheets, or food. Lin Si Ze unexpectedly remained indifferent and didn’t make her follow him, not speaking a word to her.
Extremely annoyed, Gu Hong Jian worked out another way to torment Lin Si Ze. She would normally eat Lin Si Ze’s leftovers for lunch, but she deliberately put herself on equal footing with Lin Si Ze by sharing a meal with him.
With this, Lin Si Ze simply glanced at her quickly, brows not even creased, and returned to eating his meal.
Gu Hong Jian angrily frowned. Every day, she would invent a new way to make Lin Si Ze angry, but unfortunately, it would never succeed. The most Lin Si Ze would ever say to her was “step aside” or “leave.”
Only, Lin Si Ze still hadn’t complained to Teacher Meng even though Teacher Meng came once every two nights to give the two of them a lesson on martial arts.
Lin Si Ze was a prince, after all. Compared with the almost illiterate Gu Hong Jian, his level was extremely high. Therefore, Gu Hong Jian would listen blankly every time Teacher Meng and Lin Si Ze held a conversation about studies.
Luckily, Gu Hong Jian really held a little natural talent for martial arts, while Lin Si Ze on the other hand couldn’t be considered to have as much. If she had nothing to do during the day, Gu Hong Jian would practice her martial-art squat and box. This kind of dedication had her unexpectedly catching up with Lin Si Ze in less than a month.
——For the first time, the side-dish from the imperial kitchen unexpectedly had meat. As usual, Gu Hong Jian and Lin Si Ze would share a meal as equals. Gu Hong Jian’s eyes shined, and she stretched out her chopsticks to snag it. The usually calm Lin Si Ze also missed the taste of meat, so he actually extended his chopsticks for the largest piece of meat as well.
Both of their chopsticks collided in the air. Gu Hong Jian looked over at Lin Si Ze before knocking aside Lin Si Ze’s chopsticks without the slightest hesitation. Lin Si Ze exposed an unpleasant expression at last as he twisted his wrist and used his chopsticks to hit Gu Hong Jian’s chopsticks, firmly holding them to the side.
Gu Hong Jian almost exploded with anger, but she couldn’t help but be cautious. She increased the strength of her arm, hoisting her entire arm up.
Then, Lin Si Ze unexpectedly fell over and ended up sitting on the floor.
The two of them stared blankly, looking at each other with disbelief.
Gu Hong Jian was stupefied for a long time. Her first reaction was not to offer a hand to assist her master, Lin Si Ze, but to hurriedly eat the slice of pork.
Lin Si Ze widened his eyes.
This was the first time Gu Hong Jian saw him express such a look. Immediately, she smiled a bit, wiped her mouth, and exploited the opportunity by unctuously saying, “Well, your imperial majesty, let me help you up…”
Lin Si Ze suddenly stood up, and with a gloomy but calm and collected face, he said, “Don’t approach me.”
Gu Hong Jian replied, “Eh! I didn’t do this on purpose… Who would have imagined you were too weak to stand up to the wind2 and would fall with a single push? … To a girl at that…”
This disrespectful speech angered Lin Si Ze even more, but he also merely closed his eyes and said, “When did your martial arts become so good?”
”Eh?” Gu Hong Jian was stunned before she answered, “I don’t know… Every day, I have nothing to do but practice martial arts.”
Lin Si Ze didn’t say anything else and turned around to leave.
Gu Hong Jian looked on at his defeated appearance and only thought it was laughable. She whispered, “Miss Lin… hehe.”
That evening, Lin Si Ze followed Teacher Meng to speak of a matter, but he didn’t mention Gu Hong Jian stealing his meat. Instead, he spoke with great restraint, “I think Gu Hong Jian’s martial arts progress is amazingly rapid.”
Teacher Meng actually laughed and said, “En. I already realized that, but is Hong Jian also aware of this?”
Gu Hong Jian awkwardly said, “It can’t be… Only, sometimes when I work on it later, it feels effortless with no feelings of fatigue.”
In fact, Lin Si Ze only had one thought in his heart: You know you are only sometimes doing work?
Teacher Meng smiled and said, “So my luck is good, right? Choosing in passing someone who is rather gifted. Only Hong Jian, your studies are really lacking… I also cannot teach you alone. Si Ze, if you have time during the day, begin teaching Hong Jian the basics of the Thousand Character Classic. 3 Although her martial arts are good, in the future she needs to assist you. This field of study also cannot be lacking.”
Lin Si Ze paused before he choked out the word, “Okay.”
Gu Hong Jian was stricken dumb for quite a while before she had no choice but to comply with the assignment.
Lin Si Ze actually began teaching Gu Hong Jian writing.
Gu Hong Jian was very gifted with respect to martial arts, but in liberal arts, she really wasn’t talented at all.
When Lin Si Ze had her writing her name, she crookedly wrote it. Lin Si Ze wrote her name once more and had her copying it every day to remember it. He asked her if she knew how to write his name.
Gu Hong Jian very embarrassedly shook her head.
Lin Si Ze wrote the three characters that made up his name, but three days later, Gu Hong Jian was still unable to remember how to completely write it. She wasn’t able to successfully write the ‘木’ in ‘Lin’ (林) despite writing ‘Ze’ (泽) correctly twice.
Lin Si Ze suffered with no words to say. He thought Gu Hong Jian was playing with him, but seeing Gu Hong Jian’s diligent and serious appearance as she tried to and failed at writing the characters, he truly believed she didn’t know how to write them. He had no other choice but to silently and repeatedly write his own name as demonstration with a dark face.
In truth, Gu Hong Jian remembered how to write ‘Lin Si Ze.’ Even if Gu Hong Jian didn’t have any talent for it, it would truly be no good if she wasn’t able to learn how to write these three simple characters.
She verily enjoyed seeing Lin Si Ze’s flustered and exasperated expression, that was all.
At that time, she also wanted to write the three characters ‘Lin Si Ze’ (林思泽) well. She felt that this was an aesthetically written and sounding name. It would be good if she could write as bold and vigorous as Lin Si Ze.
Therefore, she deliberately feigned her inability to write, making Lin Si Ze demonstrate over and over again so she could slowly emulate his writing style.
Time passed by quickly. Nowadays, Gu Hong Jian could rely on her own ability to write characters and essays, well enough to even join the Palace Exams. She was no longer that illiterate, useless little girl. Her best handwriting, however, was still those three characters ‘Lin Si Ze’ (林思泽).
After all, each stroke of the brush portrayed those last ten years cherished within her heart.
- (“servant girl,” used deprecatingly, but sometimes also as a term of endearment) ↩
- (idiom: extremely delicate, fragile state of health. i.e. weak) ↩
- (A 6th century poem used as a traditional reading primer.) ↩