Chapter 1 … A Ghost Returns, Returns to Her True Home
Gu Hong Jian opened her eyes to a somewhat familiar yet strange scene.
While not particularly well-lit, the study was peaceful. On a Huanghuali desk was a messily arranged pile of imperial reports. On the wall above the desk and chair was a plaque engraved with the words “Wen Dao Tang.” These three characters were written vigorously and powerfully, with a very natural and flowing style of calligraphy. In fact, it looked as if it had been written personally by the current Emperor of Tianmin Country, Lin Si Ze; although, it was actually Gu Hong Jian who held the knife and carved each stroke.
This was Wen Dao Tang. Although seemingly a common yet elegant study, in fact it was Lin Si Ze’s imperial study.
Why— why was she, Gu Hong Jian, here?
Gu Hong Jian must be in Chi Imperial Palace. Extremely far away from the capital, in the Hu prefecture, she and the famous general from the Gang and Ji vassal states, Baili Cen, fought hand to hand. Although many of Tianmin Country’s officers and soldiers had succeeded in carrying out the assignment, trials and tribulations had fallen down upon the Hu prefecture. Fighting hand to hand with Baili Cen, Gu Hong Jian simply didn’t have any stratagem that ensured him successfully being defeated – Baili Cen had dismounted her from her horse by striking her with his lance. After that, in pursuit, his lance pierced her stomach. She then lost consciousness.
Baili Cen was no rookie; he was a rather young yet seasoned general. He knew exactly how to take advantage of the situation. Thus, the instant Gu Hong Jian was thrown to the ground from her horse, she became aware of her inevitable death.
To be more accurate, when Gu Hong Jian had left the capital with 50,000 troops and horses to seize Hu prefecture three months ago, she already knew she was going to die.
So what was going on?
Not only was she not dead, but she also appeared a thousand miles away, in Lin Si Ze’s study…?
Gu Hong Jian wrinkled her brows, looking extremely puzzled, and took two steps forward, only to discover that her body seemed as light as willow catkins. She merely thought of where she wanted to move before instantly appearing in Lin Si Ze’s resting area.
Unexpectedly, Lin Si Ze was there.
He appeared somewhat fatigued. Leaning atop the soft couch with his eyes closed, faint black circles could be seen beneath his eyes. His left hand clenched an imperial report.
Even though he currently appeared very exhausted, he was still, as always, extremely handsome. Because his eyes were closed, those long, curled eyelashes could clearly be seen. They fluttered like butterfly wings in the wake of his light breathing. The outer corners of his eyes were slightly curved upwards. He appeared to be a gentle and sincere man who could look straight into a person’s soul and steal their heart. But if angered, he would send cold and detached looks toward others, making them feel as if they had fallen into an icehouse.
Gu Hong Jian was aware of this after having been on the receiving end of these two types of looks.
But now he quietly slept, his brilliantly bright eyes hidden. He actually appeared very meek.
With a very high straight nose, rather thin, pale lips, and compared to Gu Hong Jian who was constantly on the move all year round, flawless, fair skin…
He appeared to be a picturesque sleeping beauty.
But Gu Hong Jian was not in the mood to appreciate his beauty, because she urgently wanted to know what happened. Thereupon, she once again “walked” towards Lin Si Ze’s side and reached a hand out to shake Lin Si Ze awake.
Lin Si Ze loathed people waking him up from his sleep. If he was indeed extremely exhausted and woken up for an insignificant affair, he would be angry. But Gu Hong Jian was always fearless, and it was her speciality, of course, to provoke Lin Si Ze’s loathing and annoyance.
But for the first time, she failed.
She saw her hand pass through Lin Si Ze’s shoulder. Even after her hand passed through his shoulder, Lin Si Ze continued to lie down, having not received any disturbance and thus still sleeping heavily.
Gu Hong Jian blinked. Withdrawing her hand, she repeated her motions.
To no surprise, her hand passed through Lin Si Ze’s body once again.
She couldn’t awake Lin Si Ze, but it didn’t matter because it was all very obvious.
She did indeed die, but she had also become a ghost.
Gu Hong Jian remembered reading a saying before —— a ghost returns, returns to her true home.
In other words, a ghost actually “returns” after their death to the place that was truly their home.
But, her home, could it possibly be Lin Si Ze?
Gu Hong Jian somewhat anxiously looked at Lin Si Ze.
If Lin Si Ze knew she was floating beside him, how would he react?
——Gu Hong Jian had already confirmed her death. She was really floating, her two feet not touching the ground. She had no need to do so. By merely thinking of where she wanted to go, she could float there on the wind.
If Lin Si Ze already knew of her death, as well as her posthumous transformation into a ghost staying by his side, he would certainly declare with a dark face, “The influence still lingers on.” 1
To be frank, Gu Hong Jian also thought it was awfully preposterous.
She knew her feelings for Lin Si Ze were very deep. After all, over the twenty years in which she had grown from an ignorant girl to a high-ranking military officer, all of her beauty and suffering had been given to her by Lin Si Ze throughout her entire life. All her love and hate had been given to Lin Si Ze as well.
But she already knew that this was only for this life, that was all.
But it didn’t occur to Gu Hong Jian that her deep feelings for Lin Si Ze could turn her into a ghost, thus continuing to drift by Lin Si Ze’s side.
Faithful even in death, that basically described her.
With this kind of faithfulness after death, regardless of her or Lin Si Ze’s perspectives, nothing good would come of this.
Gu Hong Jian looked at Lin Si Ze, suddenly a little broken-hearted.
Did Lin Si Ze know that she, as always, completed his orders?
Did Lin Si Ze know that it only took her two months to attack the impregnable Hu prefecture, thereby dealing a heavy blow to the Ji vassal state?
Did Lin Si Ze know that she paid this price with her life?
Gu Hong Jian couldn’t decide, because she believed that even if Lin Si Ze knew she had died, he could still sleep as heavily as this.
Before, she and Lin Si Ze had an extremely intense quarrel. Gu Hong Jian had said, “If I become a ghost, it would be unlikely for me to let you off.” These angry words were definitely said in the moment of anger, yet these angry words had become reality. Gu Hong Jian felt a bit helpless.
Even though she had become a ghost, she couldn’t do anything. If she could, she would ruthlessly slap Lin Si Ze a dozen times or perhaps use a writing brush to draw a tortoise on his face.5 Maybe she could straight-out kill him and make him accompany her in death. She now couldn’t touch anyone nor control anything. Compared to other people who were simply better off…
Gu Hong Jian, bored to death, walked away, wanting to know what the date was. Luckily on the desk, an imperial report was actually unfolded. Lin Si Ze must have just finished as the date was clearly written on the bottom —— 7th Year of Píngchāng, September 14.
The day that Gu Hong Jian died was September 13…
So, she had just died, less than a day ago, yet she had hurriedly returned to the capital?
This heart could move heaven and earth!
Only, if it was like this, she was afraid that Lin Si Ze still didn’t know anything.
Even if the best horses were used to return as fast as possible the entire trip and if they didn’t stop for a rest to exchange men and horses at each relay station, it would still take at least seven days for the news of the victory at Hu prefecture to arrive at the capital. In other words, it would still take six more days for Lin Si Ze to become aware of Gu Hong Jian’s death.
Gu Hong Jian shook her head and thought of leaving Wen Dao Tang. When she walked to the gate, however, it seemed as if there was an invisible wall blocking her path. She was completely unable to continue walking. She could even see through the gaps in the gate the outer Imperial bodyguards, palace maids, and inner supervisors, but unfortunately she couldn’t go outside.
Gu Hong Jian floated back to Lin Si Ze’s side, knowing for certain that she couldn’t escape from her responsibility to this guy.
Did she really like him this much?
Like him enough to change into a ghost to stick by his side…Hey!
Maybe she was still like herself and still wanted to love this man.
Gu Hong Jian stood there, but Lin Si Ze slightly stirred. He then slowly opened his eyes.
Within his eyes was an extremely rare confused and blank expression, completely different from when he was clear-headed.
Lin Si Ze wrinkled his brows and closed his eyes, reaching up with his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. He once again opened his eyes and the expression within his eyes became as sharp and serene as in the past. Like a deep lake, people completely couldn’t fathom what he was thinking when all was said and done.
Gu Hong Jian jumped in front of him for a little while, wanting to test if he could see her or not.
And without a doubt, Lin Si Ze was simply unable to see her. Merely standing up from the soft couch, his hand still holding the imperial report, he directly passed through the still bouncing Gu Hong Jian.
Gu Hong Jian, somewhat dissatisfied, curled her lips and followed Lin Si Ze. She watched him move the screen aside and exit. Outside, Lin Si Ze’s inner servant Jiang Hai Fu heard the sound of Lin Si Ze’s footsteps. Thus, he inquired, “Your majesty, you have awoken?”
Although Jiang Hai Fu was an old-fashioned name, he was actually a very young palace eunuch. Despite his delicate appearance, he was fond of acting mature. He had already been following Lin Si Ze when he’d ascended the throne. After several years, he could very clearly grasp Lin Si Ze’s preferences.
Lin Si Ze grunted nonverbally. Jiang Hai Fu then instructed the palace maid to go prepare and fetch hot water for Lin Si Ze to wash his face.
”Bah! You still get to live comfortably while I was in the Hu prefecture – that damnable place. I am a woman, yet I couldn’t bathe for quite a while. My body smelled awful…”
Gu Hong Jian floated in front of Lin Si Ze. Putting on an act, she reached out to slap his face a few times. Of course, in reality her hand phased through Lin Si Ze’s face as light as a feather. In this lifetime, Gu Hong Jian actually wasn’t allowed to strike Lin Si Ze repeatedly, but now she could punch and kick him like this as she pleased. Although she was only amusing herself, it was enough to satisfy her.
Lin Si Ze looked pensive as he sat in his chair for a while. All of a sudden, he spoke up, “Jiang Hai Fu.”
Jiang Hai Fu immediately responded, “What is your majesty’s command?”
”Today…has the news from Hu prefecture arrived yet?”
Lin Si Ze indifferently asked.
Gu Hong Jian couldn’t help lowering her clenched fist.
Jiang Hai Fu stared blankly before immediately shaking his head. “No…the latest news was from ten days ago which reported that Assistant Minister Gu has already figured out a method to attack Hu prefecture and to force Baili Cen to surrender.”
Lin Si Ze grunted. “En.”
“Your majesty…are you worried about Assistant Minister Gu?” Jiang Hai Fu very carefully inquired.
Gu Hong Jian also fixed her attention on Lin Si Ze.
But listening to this inquiry, Lin Si Ze coldly snorted. “If she said she had a method, then she should be able to seize Hu prefecture. She has always been deceitful in many ways. And then there are her martial arts for her to rely on. I worry about what she will do.”
Jiang Hai Fu nodded without delay. “Saying this, Assistant Minister Gu is surely safe and sound.”
Deceitful in many ways?
Gu Hong Jian didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Kicking Lin Si Ze with both of her feet, her shoe sliced right through that handsome face of his. A bit of her anger emerged from her heart.
Although she knew long ago that this man’s heart was definitely nothing good, hearing the cutthroat description “deceitful in many ways” still made her heart inevitably depressed.
Deceitful in many ways, when had she used a trick on him?
Every time she had done so was for him to harm others, all right?!
Fine, her justification wasn’t exactly acceptable…
Author’s Note: Seeking bookmarks, seeking comments >.<
- (literal meaning: the soul of a deceased has not yet dispersed) ↩
- (Meng Po is the Lady of Forgetfulness, tasked to ensure that souls are ready to be reincarnated without remembering their previous life or afterlife) ↩
- (Nai River bridge is also known as the river of Lethe or the Sanzu river and is the entrance to the Underworld.) ↩
- (当牛当马当人 literally translates to when cow when horse when human. This phrase comes from Buddhism. It describes using the next life to repay for their good deeds.) ↩
- (An all-around insult, Gu Hong Jian could be implying that Lin Si Ze is a coward, is infertile, has slow-moving sperm, has wronged her, etc. Anyway, she’s insulting him.) ↩