Chapter 10 … In the torrential rain, someone held up a rainbow for you.
Following the Winter Solstice of Wànshùn Year 30, after Teacher Meng came, Lin Si Ze no longer went to his princely education lessons. He didn’t even need to consult with anyone for no one cared about where he went.
As a result, the dealings between him and the other princes steeply declined in number. He rarely left Bai Fu Palace, and the others were too lazy to run to Bai Fu Palace to pick fights with him. They considered that with his cold, dismal, miserable appearance coupled with only the little palace maid serving him, there would inevitably be a day where he would freeze to death if he had not starved to death by then.
Although Gu Hong Jian did not dare to mention that year’s Winter Solstice, she had opted to very tactfully ask Lin Si Ze about how his relationships with the rest of his brothers were.
Lin Si Ze tightly summarized the situation. “Not so good.”
Obviously, it’s not good… Gu Hong Jian thought to herself.
Gu Hong Jian echoed Lin Si Ze’s words when he had asked her if she hated her parents five years ago and asked him, “Do you hate them?”
“They’re unworthy of my hate,” Lin Si Ze replied.
Gu Hong Jian understood.
He hated them.
In the past five years, even ignoring the fact that the other princes didn’t bother seeking out Li Si Ze, the rest of the servants neglected Bai Fu Palace on a daily basis, making it easy to discern Lin Si Ze’s position in the palace.
Gu Hong Jian, who had the honor to eat with her master, basically didn’t get to eat meat all year, a fact that soon became a problem.
There was a time when the food Gu Hong Jian brought back mysteriously had a thick slab of meat. Lin Se Ze had eaten bitterness when trying to snatch meat from Gu Hong Jian before, so he did not contend for it this time. Gu Hong Jian was very conscientious this time and said, “You eat first. You eat first.”
Lin Si Ze was extremely confused and asked, “Why is there meat today?”
Gu Hong Jian irrelevantly answered, “My martial arts are indeed at a high level…”
Lin Si Ze was at a loss.
Gu Hong Jian admitted to her sneakiness. “It just so happened that the third prince’s men were also collecting food. I simply took advantage of one of the servant girl’s inattentiveness and switched a dish. Eiheihei~ flawless!”
Lin Si Ze: “…”
Gu Hong Jian continued, “Too awesome! I’ve decided; from now on, I will do this every day. And once my technique improves, I’ll switch two dishes! But we need to alternate who I switch the dishes with, otherwise they will definitely discover something is amiss… After all, we’re being given leftovers of cold soup, something which the others are definitely not used to eating.”
“In the future…” Lin Si Ze murmured, “I will definitely let you eat lavish meals for the rest of your life.”
Gu Hong Jian exclaimed, “That’s what I was thinking too! Okay, but first, let’s eat.”
She placed some meat into Lin Si Ze’s bowl before beginning to wolf down her own portion. Lin Si Ze stared at Gu Hong Jian’s uncouth appearance for a moment, the look in his eyes deepening. He did not say a word, however, and ate his meal silently.
Although Lin Si Ze always promised without restraint to give Gu Hong Jian a better life, that was in the future, and the future was, when all was said and done, very distant. The two of them ultimately didn’t know what would happen.
Back then, however, Gu Hong Jian and Lin Si Ze had shared the same thoughts and had believed in each other and themselves. They had also believed that as long as they were together, there was endless hope.
Unfortunately, this did not stop reality in its ease in changing. Winter in Wànshùn Year 39 was colder than any previous years.
Soon, the Winter Solstice approached once more. No one in the palace was in a celebratory mood for in the northern frontier, the Qirui War had begun without warning. Though, it was winter now—a time simply unsuited for war. On top of the weather, reinforcements were also unable to keep up.
Qirui Country had clearly been prepared for the war for quite some time, seeing as how they had suddenly attacked, and Tianmin Country had to take the challenge.
Within the palace, the empress proposed a cut on the expenses of the harem in order to support the war effort. The monthly allowance was cut in half—this had little effect on Lin Si Ze. He never had an allowance anyways.
The difficulty Lin Se Zi and Gu Hong Jian faced, however, was the fact that even winter materials were going to be halved.
In fact, those pampered imperial concubines and princes’ winter supplies were originally outrageously generous. Even when they were ‘cut in half,’ they truly didn’t face a shortage. On the other hand, for Lin Si Ze, it truly was cut in half.
Originally, they were to be each given new quilts. Now, they only got one. The charcoal for the fire was scarce in supply as well. Gu Hong Jian calculated over and over again the charcoal and kept reaching the same conclusion. She couldn’t help but scowl miserably and say, “So little charcoal, making it last the entire month will truly be extremely difficult.”
Bai Fu Palace was remotely located with rarely any other human beings visiting. In the past two days, snow had fallen, forcing Gu Hong to go out every day to shovel it. Although shoveling the snow was an exercise that prevented her from becoming cold, when she re-entered the palace, she would need to light a fire, lest she wanted to fall ill due to the cold sapping away her strength.
Lin Si Ze was a bit worried. “Bury yourself in all the quilts, wear multiple layers, and don’t head out. This should be enough.”
Because their supplies were reduced by half, Gu Hong Jian also didn’t receive any new clothes. Lin Si Ze was only allocated a cotton-padded jacket that simply couldn’t protect against the cold. Although Gu Hong Jian had thoroughly searched the stores, she could only find a slightly moldy woolen quilt of some unknown age…
Gu Hong Jian looked miserable as she trembled beneath the quilt. The unpleasant odor assailed her senses. Gu Hong Jian glanced at the color of the sky outside and became even more worried. “If the sun was really bright, then I could sunbathe in it, but right now when it’s like this—how do I wrap myself…”
Lin Si Ze asked, “Is it cold when you sleep at night?”
Gu Hong Jian pulled a long face. “Of course it’s cold! There’s only one quilt, and we can’t light a fire. I even had a runny nose when I woke up this morning!”
She wiped her nose as she said this.
Lin Si Ze: “…”
Lin Si Ze ordered, “Take some charcoal to use in your room. My quilt is rather thick, so I won’t get cold when I sleep at night.”
Gu Hong Jian grinned from ear to ear. Just as she was about to accept, she suddenly felt something was amiss. She immediately disregarded Lin Si Ze and rushed into his room. Reaching out and pinching his quilt, she soon became indignant. “Your quilt is more or less as thick as mine! My body is stronger than yours against the cold, so how can you not be cold?!”
Lin Si Ze replied, “What do you mean stronger than my body…”
Gu Hong Jian placed her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Little dwarf…”
Lin Si Ze ordered with a cold expression, “Don’t take over my bed!!!”
After their fight, they still had to address the problem directly. Gu Hong Jian ticked off her fingers as she calculated it all. “Two beds with quilts that can’t be considered thick, one moldy woolen quilt, just enough charcoal to fuel the fire for at most half a month… Ai, how do we survive? When is Teacher Meng visiting? It would be good if we have him get us some clothes…”
Lin Si Ze commented, “Teacher Meng said when he last visited that he has something to do in the south. The earliest he’ll return is next year.”
Gu Hong Jian: “…”
Gu Hong Jian became frantic as she exclaimed, “Forget about it; I’ll go steal some quilts and charcoal.”
Lin Si Ze didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he countered, “Stop playing around; have you become addicted to stealing from stealing food?”
Gu Hong Jian said, “Then what do we do?!”
Lin Si Ze pondered for a moment and stated, “First, let’s use up our allocated charcoal. When it’s truly dire…”
“I’ll go steal again.” Gu Hong Jian understood tacitly.
This time, Lin Si Ze didn’t accuse her of making trouble.
One Winter Solstice morning, Gu Hong Jian woke to discover that it had begun snowing some time in the night. At the moment, it was still snowing, the heaviest snowfall she had yet seen.
She was like a small, noisy child fluttering her wings in the snow—jumping up and down— when she exclaimed, “Snow!!! So much snow!”
Lin Si Ze stayed inside and only glanced outside through the window. He coolly stated, “It’s cold as hell, what is there to be happy about.”
Gu Hong Jian replied, “This is the first time I’ve seen so much snow!”
She jumped and immediately sank knee-deep in the snow.
Gu Hong Jian cried out, “Wow wow wow…”
Gu Hong Jian deliberately staggered and fell into the snow. She then took the opportunity to roll in it.
Lin Si Ze exclaimed, “Are you a dog?! Get up! Be careful about catching a cold!”
Gu Hong Jian snorted coldly. “I’m definitely not like someone whose body is so delicate. I won’t catch a cold!”
Lin Si Ze ordered, “Get up.”
“Hmph.” Gu Hong Jian puffed her cheeks, but she still obediently got up. She then cried out in surprise all of a sudden, “The wintersweet bloomed!”
This time, Lin Si Ze was interested. After dressing in appropriate clothing, he went outside and followed her to see the corner of the grounds where the wintersweet flowers were blooming leisurely in the large snowfall. Their scarlet coloring seemed especially bright in the vast expanse of whiteness.
“Blooming in solitude amidst the cold 1…a good sign.” Lin Si Ze quirked his lips.
Gu Hong Jian was also elated and played outside for a long while.
As if to refute Gu Hong Jian’s declaration of ‘I won’t catch a cold’, Gu Hong Jian immediately caught a common cold upon returning back to her room.
Lin Si Ze saw that she wasn’t making trouble like usual and ran to her room to check up on her, whereupon he discovered her dizzily laying in bed, curled up into a ball and looking extremely pitiful.
“Gu Hong Jian…Gu Hong Jian?” Lin Si Ze reached out with his hand to touch her forehead and felt a frightful heat.
Gu Hong Jian murmured, dazed, “Yi…Lin Si Ze…”
She was already very accustomed to calling him by his name rather than by master.
Lin Si Ze said, “Gu Hong Jian, your forehead is burning.”
“Can it [burn]… Why do I feel so cold…” Gu Hong Jian trembled and curled up even more tightly.
Seeing how ill she was, Lin Si Ze was terribly worried and personally went to find the imperial physician. Since the beginning of winter, however, the people who had fallen ill were not small in number. The majority of those at the hospital didn’t particularly care about a small prince who was akin to a shadow and refused to be dragged over by him. Moreover, since Winter Solstice just happened to be approaching, most of those at the hospital had already left on holiday. In fact, no one came.
Lin Si Ze saw Gu Hong Jian’s very red face and clenched his teeth. He carried her on his back.
Gu Hong Jian, feverish and dazed, still puzzledly asked, “What’s going on…”
Lin Si Ze stated, “Wrap your arms around my neck. You’re sleeping with me. Two quilts in one bed is still better than before.”
Gu Hong Jian was stupefied and sobered up quite a bit. “Sleeping in your bed?!”
Lin Si Ze hummed. “Mn.”
“But…men and women should not touch hands when they give or receive things…” Gu Hong Jian stammered.
Lin Si Ze said, “I don’t want to sleep with you either.”
Gu Hong Jian mumbled, “…Oh…”
Strange. Although she didn’t really want to sleep with Lin Si Ze, why did she felt disappointed when Lin Si Ze had said this?!
Lin Si Ze carried Gu Hong Jian to his bed and covered her with both quilts. He then shoved thick clothes onto Gu Hong Jian, who almost threw up from the weight of the clothes being shoved on top of her.
Gu Hong Jian murmured, “It’s enough…I feel like someone is sitting on top of me…ou…”
Only then did Lin Si Ze refrain from fretting and lit a fire. He sat by Gu Hong Jian’s side.
Outside, the sky gradually darkened. Lin Si Ze retrieved the leftovers from noon and used iron tongs to clasp the bowl. He then placed the bowl into the fire for a while to warm it up before feeding Gu Hong Jian.
A dark and gloomy air hung around Gu Hong Jian as she said, “Falling ill yet still eating this kind of food, very tragic.”
Lin Si Ze commented, “I’ll eat it if you don’t.”
Gu Hong Jian ate the bowl clean.
Lin Si Ze felt a bit sad and said, “In the future, I will definitely ascend the throne.”
Gu Hong Jian asked in between bites, “Mmmmm, and then?
“Protect those I want to protect—Gu Hong Jian, at that time, I will definitely protect you.”
Gu Hong Jian was extremely touched. “Mn!”
Although the tall, thick, and solid Gu Hong Jian was touched, she still dazedly dozed off after eating. Before falling asleep though, she caught sight of the brilliant orange flames reflecting in the window. She suddenly roused and murmured, “Today is the Winter Solstice! You’re not going to Ying Xi Palace?”
Lin Si Ze replied, “No. There’s no one who cares about me anyway.”
Gu Hong Jian exclaimed, “But no matter what, you still have to go, don’t you?!”
Lin Si Ze said, “You’re making me go alone?? Without even a personal maid.”
Gu Hong Jian thought about it and sleepily mumbled, “Then you better not go.”
She rapidly fell asleep after she said this.
Lin Si Ze kept watch beside her. From time to time, he would touch Gu Hong Jian’s forehead to test her temperature. Occasionally, he would add a bit of firewood. At midnight, Gu Hong Jian woke up and saw Lin Si Ze dozing beside her. She reached out and stroked Lin Si Ze’s hand. She realized his hand was freezing.
Gu Hong Jian whispered, “Lin Si Ze.”
Lin Si Ze opened his eyes and said with a bit of fatigue, “Mn? Why are you awake?”
Gu Hong Jian moved over a bit. “Lin Si Ze, come over and sleep with me.”
Lin Si Ze chuckled and retorted, “What about men and women not touching hands when they give or receive things?”
Gu Hong Jian said, a bit bashful, “In any case…you treat me like a man.”
Lin Si Ze actually nodded earnestly. “Oh, that’s true.”
At the end of his statement, he took off his outer coat without any embarrassment and climbed into the bed to sleep. Gu Hong Jian covered her mouth with her hand. Lin Si Ze popped a vein and accused, “What are you covering your mouth for?! There’s no way I’m going to kiss you.”
Gu Hong Jian simply became exceedingly red and retorted, “Who said you wanted to kiss me?! I caught a cold and am afraid of infecting you.”
Lin Si Ze acquiesced. “Enough, put your hand down. Your nose is blocked; you’ll suffocate to death soon.”
Gu Hong Jian confusedly asked, “How do you know my nose is blocked?”
Lin Si Ze said, “From your voice—sounds like a male duck.”
Gu Hong Jian became annoyed and reached out to hit Lin Si Ze. Lin Si Ze dodged and restrained her limbs, saying, “Okay, go to sleep.”
Although Gu Hong Jian was restrained, she still had the strength to escape Lin Si Ze’s hold. She obediently calmed down, however, and said, “Oh…but I’m afraid I’ll infect you.”
Lin Si Ze paid her no heed and continued to restrain her, rapidly falling asleep himself.
In the darkness and by the slight light of the coal fire, Gu Hong Jian vaguely glimpsed Lin Si Ze’s visage. Although he was growing increasingly handsome,at this moment, his looks were rumpled by the slight furrow in his brows, probably due to his unhappiness. Gu Hong Jian slowly withdrew her right hand from beneath him and very lightly pressed her hand to rest on the middle of his forehead. She wanted to smooth out the furrow in his brows.
Lin Si Ze’s brows furrowed even more though. His body fidgeted as he muttered, “Hong Jian…don’t make trouble.”
Gu Hong Jian guiltily withdrew her hand. She suddenly felt her very red face warm up even more.
It was Hong Jian.
Not ‘hey you.’ Not ‘Gu Hong Jian.’
Yes, Hong Jian.
At this moment, Gu Hong Jian suddenly realized at last the meaning behind her name.
In the torrential rain, someone held up a rainbow for you.2
That was…this kind of feeling.
In the Winter Solstice of Wànshùn Year 39, as the snow fell outside the window that night, within Bai Fu Palace, sixteen year old Lin Si Ze and Gu Hong Jian lived together and slept together. This extremely cold night was also the warmest winter night.
Author’s Note: Young sweetness stops at this point (for now)
- A line from a poem called 《梅花》(Wintersweet). ‘Solitude’ indicates its firm/unyielding nature, the wintersweet unfearful of other’s gazes. In the uncompromising environment, it still stands straight and does not fall. This embodies Wang Anshi’s (the poet)’s persisting self-belief. ↩
- 虹见 — 虹 | hóng jiàn yī hóng | means rainbow (彩虹 | cǎi hóng); essentially, it means that when times get rough, someone will support you (the phrase). With the play-on words, it means that there is someone who actually cares about her, Gu Hong Jian, a lowly maid servant. ↩