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Their group rode out of the pass. The distance from Datong to the Weining Sealet was actually not that far; with quick horses spurred on, it would take no more than half a day to get there.
Wang Zhi had only brought a man named Wei Mao with him, who was another confidante aside from Ding Rong. Tang Fan and the rest had met him before, just a few years back when they had investigated the Southside Gang and found a brothel. At the time, Wei Mao had been a Millarch of Torture at the Western Depot, instantly getting the bawd’s group under control. After that, Wang Zhi had scrambled off to Datong, bringing Wei Mao with him.
He was harsh-hearted and loyal to Wang Zhi, relied on by him like he was one of his own hands. Of course, after what happened with Ding Rong, Eunuch Wang now held some reservations towards those at his side, and dared not give any of them the totality of his trust. This was what was called, ‘Get bitten by a snake once, and you’ll fear ropes for a decade.’
Sui Zhou himself brought along two Brocade Guards named Wei Shan and Lu Yan. In addition to them were Tang Fan, Du Gui’r, Shen Gui, Meng Cun, and the one soldier, as well as magical phony Chuyun-zi.
By pure coincidence, Meng Cun had also been one of the seven soldiers that had survived, and the one with the highest rank.
When Tang Fan caught sight of Meng Cun, he was solidly dazed for a moment. The latter smiled painfully towards him. “Sir Tang, Sir Sui. Fate really brings us together.”
In addition to him, Wang Zhi had found an average soldier that had similarly been one of the seven survivors.
Tang Fan turned his head to Wang Zhi. “Why didn’t you say it was him?”
“How was I supposed to know that you didn’t know it was him?” Wang Zhi answered, full of arrogance.
Tang Fan glared at him speechlessly. Seeing that the other soldier had an expression of unease, he joked to comfort him. “Don’t worry. Since you were able to come back safely last time, you will this time, too. No matter what, there’s a lot of officials here that are higher in rank than you. If something actually does happen, you won’t be alone, or harmed.”
However, the soldier, instead of relaxing from his comforting, grew all the more apprehensive. “Sir, that place is truly cursed! We were only able to return last time thanks to Corporal Meng’s well-timed order to retreat! This time, we can’t ensure that!”
“Alright, don’t be so gloomy!” Meng Cun scolded with a laugh. “I haven’t taken a wife and had children yet, while you’ve got kids. Aren’t we, as soldiers, meant to obey orders? Don’t be such a woman, calling things unlucky when they’re not!”
The soldier scratched his head from the scolding, chuckling sheepishly, and didn’t say anything else ‘gloomy’.
Meng Cun had been smashed by Du Gui’r’s case last time, which the doctor had diagnosed as a cracked bone. Having rested for so many days, he could go without using a cane on the road, and this trip, where everyone rode horses, did not do much to affect it.
Shen Gui did not need to be mentioned. He currently had a pained face, looking like his parents had died and unwilling to the maximum.
Chuyun-zi really wasn’t too happy to come on this trip, either, but he had flaunted the air of someone highly capable before. Were he to refuse, he likely wouldn’t have a good fate remaining inside Datong City and facing Wang Yue. So, once Wang Zhi asked, he agreed after slight thought, and brought a gaggle of dudes that all had cinnabar and talisman paper… as well as one small jar of dark dog’s blood.
Everyone here had either been forced to come, or had had no better choice but to come. There was only one exception that had come here of her own request — Du Gui’r.
Typical maidens in the boudoir, at her age and with her well-to-do background, would typically be waiting around in their homes to be pampered and play shy about getting married. She, however, would instead show her face to help her father manage his apothecary, and had personally led people beyond the pass to gather herbs, going as far as the foot of Barbarian Ridge on the Sealet’s northern edge. This was a border city, its code more relaxed than the faraway Jiangnan or even the North, but she was still a rarity.
On one side, she had come along because she knew the road. Together with Shen Gui, Meng Cun, and the other soldier, whenever the four of them were referring to a direction, they could verify off of each other and pare down the possibility of their squadron losing the way.
On another side, the reality was that Sui Zhou didn’t really trust this girl, always getting the sense that the role Zhongjing Hall played in this case was too subtle. Even if there was no proof, her suspicion was not light. Instead of letting her remain where he couldn’t see her, it would be better to keep her close to watch her.
However, that intent, in the eyes of others, had a different explanation. At the very least, people like Meng Cun, Wang Zhi, and the others believed that he had thoughts of some kind towards Du Gui’r.
Gossip went unmentioned as the group left the pass and headed all the way north. The sky overhead was clear, the wind mild and sun gorgeous. The rolling mountain peaks turned into a scene of majesty.
However, everyone had their own concerns, so they had not much free time to appreciate it, urging their horses ahead. They could not be described as advancing at flying speed, but it wasn’t slow in the least.
Right when they were about to approach Weining Sealet, a gesture came from Wei Shan as he scouted ahead. Everyone gradually slowed, only for him to turn his horse back and report, “The Sealet is ahead. Nothing is unusual.”
Sure enough, after around an incense stick’s worth of time, a lake as vast as an ocean entered everyone’s line of sight.
Lakes as large as this were not easy to find in the Datong region. Mentally, they knew that it was obviously just a lake, yet they all couldn’t help but sigh from the bottom of their hearts at first look. It was little wonder that the Mongols had assigned it the name of ‘Sealet’. For people that had never seen the sea before, this was comparable to what they yearned for at heart.
Beneath the sunlight, the lake’s surface was suffused with glittering ripples. Several water fowl flitted past, startled by the sound of the group’s hoofbeats, and left behind a string of flapping sounds.
Beautiful scenery, luxurious grass — it was quiet enough here to make one’s heart calm down, yet was also liable to confuse and numb vigilance.
“Where did you all run into the sandstorm last time?” Wang Zhi asked Meng Cun.
Meng Cun pointed at the lake not too far ahead. “Right there. We ought to have wound around to hunt down the Tartars, back then, but a sandstorm picked up, the sky went dark at once, and the sound of many blades and spears emerged.”
Before setting off, they had all heard Meng Cun and the soldier explain this several times before. Despite arriving here and physically overlooking the scene, it was still difficult to sense the situation they had described; the sky was obviously blue and distant, the sunlight was dazzling, and the area surrounding them was empty.
There were the mountains on the northern edge of the lake, of course, but the distance from here to there was a good chunk. If someone launched an attack from the mountainside, there would be no way they wouldn’t see it.
Shen Gui trembled. “Priest Li once told me that as long as he made an array in the Tartar’s palace, they could defeat enemies from a thousand li away, eradicating the Ming army until not even a piece of armor was left, all across a partition of empty air. I didn’t believe him at the time, but after hearing that weird things had happened to the Ming army, I did.”
Wang Zhi furrowed his brow. “Didn’t you say that he might have set up an array?”
Shen Gui truly feared Wang Zhi, the fiendish portent. He had fallen into his hands, then immediately suffered torment, to the point that he had felt that if he was going to continue to be tormented by Wang Zhi, he might as well recommend himself to lead the way. In that way, he might be able to take back his little life, and swap out his crime for a merit; he really didn’t want to taste that flavor of death being better than life ever again.
In the hands of Wei Mao, the Millarch of Torture, Shen Gui had come to learn that there were many tortures in this world that could leave no marks behind on his body, yet still cause extreme pain that made one want to get rid of it immediately.
Compared to that, he quickly came to feel that Li Zilong’s alleged gamut of magical tricks were not really that terrifying.
“Yes, yes, I did indeed believe so then, but following that, I accidentally heard someone say that in order to properly arrange an array for the Ming army, Priest Li deliberately moved a few artifacts to the foot of Barbarian Ridge, which restrained the Ming army right after,” Shen Gui quickly answered. “As for what specific type of ‘artifacts’ they are, I’m not sure, but I recall the word ‘array’. I informed you of this last time, there’s absolutely not a bit of falsehood to it!”
With all that said, he smiled ingratiatingly at Wang Zhi.
“Where are the artifacts?”
Wang Zhi didn’t disbelieve Shen Gui’s words, truthfully; with the Western Depot’s methods, even the mute could begin to speak, to say nothing of the fact that Shen Gui was a merchant with a plethora of wealth. It was simply that his claims were much too fantastical, making it difficult to believe him.
Shen Gui peered in every direction, the entirety of the wide lake entering his sights. Where would there be any sort of tall or conspicuous stone? His face automatically crumbled. “Th-that, I don’t know. When I overheard the White Lotus person, their implication seemed to be that the artifacts were at the lake’s shores. Once they meet with a sandstorm, the array will react, and thousands of troops will show up…”
He wasn’t so sure about his own words, himself, and kept glancing at Wang Zhi as he faltered, afraid that the other would get angry.
Of course, he feared another that was seated behind him, sharing a steed with him; Wei Mao. That was because all of that torment directed at him from before had come from the man’s hands.
Yet, there was nothing to be done. Wang Zhi didn’t trust Shen Gui, so he had specifically told Wei Mao to keep watch nearby. There was absolutely no way he would let Shen Gui ride alone.
During their conversation, Tang Fan and Chuyun-zi spurred their horses onward, galloping about ten zhang forwards as per Meng Cun’s instruction. The rest could only make out from a distance that they appeared to be saying things, after which they turned back in short order.
“Combining what Corporal Meng and Lord Shen have said, this poor Daoist and Sir Tang have already made an initial inference,” Chuyun-zi said, “though we are still uncertain. We need to wind around this lake to look at the base of Barbarian Ridge before I can say.”
“There’s no harm in speaking now for everyone to hear,” Tang Fan said.
“I have never been here before. I heard that the Sealet frequently has sandstorms in its vicinity?”
The one that answered him was Du Gui’r. She had grown up in a border city, so she naturally had more speaking power than anyone else. “They’re not very common at all, typically only happening in the period of early spring and fall. I’ve never encountered one, but I heard the elders of my family say that some can buffet very seriously, which can indeed cause the look of the world around one to change. However, such huge sand cyclones are few, and they’re usually just sandstorms.”
Chuyun-zi nodded. “Have any of you ever heard of ‘Underworld Soldiers Passing By’?”
The instant that outlandish phrase was said, everyone exchanged glances.
‘Underworld soldiers’ were heard of, naturally. As the title hinted, it referred to the soldiers of the underworld that came to escort souls to the afterlife after they had reached the end of their allotted lifespans. However, them ‘passing by’ sounded utterly bizarre.
“What is that?” Wang Zhi asked.
Seeing that everyone was puzzled, Chuyun-zi had no intent to keep them all in suspense, clarifying at once. “This poor Daoist once traversed mountains and tread water in my early years, wandering all across the county. I passed the outskirt region of the capital’s Bao’an Province, where I saw a valley that was clearly uninhabited, yet constantly had the sound of troops galloping around inside it. The locals said that an unknown amount of years back, the Yellow Emperor and Chiyou once engaged in a fierce battle here, and the dead soldiers’ ghosts never left. If anyone heard the commotion of an army, yet still proceeded in, they would definitely not come back, dead.”
There were truly no surprises that this world didn’t have. Where had anyone heard of such a thing before? Sui Zhou, Wang Zhi, and others similar were fine, while Meng Cun, Du Gui’r, and the rest each had expressions of shock.
“After I came to Datong and heard about the missing soldiers, I guessed as much in my mind,” Chuyun-zi went on. “However, the situation with the Ming army differs from what I encountered before. There’s no valley here, nor any ancient battleground, so I never spoke about my own guess until I heard Sir Tang say just now that Barbarian Ridge was once the territory of the Jin State…”
He looked at Tang Fan, who took over of his own volition. “When the Mongols went South to swallow up Jin, the two warred in Feng Province, their dead and wounded a full crowd. Jin was miserably defeated, its power shrinking a step to the South. If I haven’t misguessed, that battlefield should be in the vicinity of the present Barbarian Ridge.”
“Were that so, then this would make sense,” Chuyun-zi answered.
Wang Zhi didn’t believe what he was hearing, though. “What’s all that junk? Where would there be any wronged and lingering souls? This is a clear and sunny day! The whole world is bright! How can spirits come out to cause havoc? Besides, wrongs have ends and debts have owners. If they really are the souls of Jin troops, they should only go after those Tartars! Their ancestors were the Mongols!”
Noticing that Shen Gui, Du Gui’r, and the rest all looked scared, Tang Fan couldn’t help but smile. “There’s no need to worry, that wasn’t what I was trying to say. Li Zilong is nothing more than a magician of the demonic practice. How could he actually incur the supernatural? Shen Gui just said that he personally heard of an array, so these ‘underworld soldiers’ are evidently connected to whatever array that is. Priest Chuyun’s statement simply happened to match up the two sides to corroborate off of each other.
“Firstly, an area that they have in common is that devastating wars once took place in them. Secondly, there are nothing but mountains and boulders erected nearby. This must have some relationship to Li Zilong’s array.
“We spoke of these conjectures not to make everyone worry all the more, but to hope to give you all clarity. The more we know, the more favorable the outcome of this expedition will be.”
His expression was soft, earnest, and inciting of goodwill. “Truthfully, I had just been about to call Eunuch Wang and the rest to the side with Priest Chuyun, in order to speak of this alone. However, since we now stand here, we are all comrades that live and die together. I don’t wish for any sort of hidden information to cost you your lives, which is why I plainly informed you of these guesses. If we really do encounter underworld soldiers, as Priest Chuyun said, no one will need to panic. Over these years, many White Lotus followers have been caught in our hands; while no shortage of them have learned a few tricks from Li Zilong, those people have nevertheless become mist passing before the eyes. This time will be no exception.”
With how Wang Zhi thought, he would never consent to informing everyone of something so important, but it was too late for him to prevent Tang Fan from telling them everything. Still, following the latter’s heartfelt speech, everyone’s expressions gradually relaxed, leaving them not as panicked as before.
Wang Zhi, from the bottom of his heart, disdained Du Gui’r’s group, believing that they played no other role aside from leading the way, important events never to be known to them. Tang Fan didn’t think the same, however. Sometimes, keeping things hidden would not curb fear, but instead make it worse and spread. Since everyone was bound to share in adversity here, it would be better to put everything out so that their misgivings would be reduced more than being secretive could manage.
A Li Zilong that utilized the topography of an ancient battleground to stop the Ming army with an array was definitely easier to deal with than a Li Zilong that could call forth the elements and summon ghosts.
Tang Fan’s words were truly effective, at least getting everyone to start thinking towards how to crack the array. Even the soldier that had come with Meng Cun no longer looked scared. How long the effect would persist depended upon how long it would take them to find the array.
However, things were disappointing. The alleged ‘Underworld Soldiers Passing By’ was not showing back up, not a trace of the array to even be found. Were it not for what Chuyun-zi and Tang Fan had said, Wang Zhi would almost have believed that Shen Gui was messing with them.
There was a taut string in everyone’s hearts. They had long made preparations to witness a scene where everything was awful, but everything was unexpectedly peaceful, nothing happening at all. Weining Sealet looked like it had been standing tall like so for millions of nights and days, unchanged by them coming there.
From the Sealet to the North, the topography gradually steepened. Go any further, and one would need to pass through a valley, with the infinite range of mountains to the left being Barbarian Ridge.
By the time everyone reached the foot of the Ridge, the sky had gone completely black, the road ahead covered entirely in darkness. Going forward now would, without a doubt, be an unwise decision. Their group garrisoned on the northern side of the lake, preparing to rest for a night and take a look around the foothill region the next morning.
Meng Cun, Wei Shan, and the rest set up a fire and campsite by the lake, with even Du Gui’r helping out. Tang Fan put on no airs of a civil official, but after he clumsily knocked over a pot of water, he conscientiously stood to the side while rubbing his nose, so that he didn’t add to anyone’s troubles.
In his idleness, he wandered all about. Seeing that both Sui Zhou and Wang Zhi were seated by the lake, wiping down their blades, he walked over, then inquisitively peered at the spring-gilt sabre in Wang Zhi’s hand. “You’re not a Brocade Guard. Why are you wielding a spring-gilt sabre, too?”
“Have you heard of the sabre’s origins?” Wang Zhi countered.
Tang Fan smiled. “Are you quizzing me? It’s been said that the term ‘spring-gilt’ was bestowed by the Great Ancestor, stemming from ‘Gilt robes as spring endures, stand tall as the firmament; dash daily towards a parental home in vivid uniform.’ Its message is the relationship between the Brocade Guard and the Son of Heaven, though the veracity of that is too ancient to be quizzed about.”
To tell the truth, the Great Ancestor was only semi-literate, and likely hadn’t ever read the Four Books and Five Classics. How could he have ever made up such an allusion, such a name? It had very likely come from some later person’s forced analogy. Judging by the Great Ancestor’s personality he’d had in life, he wasn’t likely to have given such a style of name, so, in Tang Fan’s opinion, it had probably been granted by Liu Bowen, or Song Lian, or someone else like them.
Wang Zhi just shook his head. “I wasn’t asking about the origin of the name, I was asking about the origin of the sabre.”
“I’m actually confounded, here. Please bestow your knowledge, Eunuch Wang.”
Wang Zhi glanced at Sui Zhou. “He doesn’t know, but you should, right?”
Sui Zhou gave only two words, and slowly: “Tang sabres.”
“So you do know a bit,” Wang Zhi said, haughtily.
Sui Zhou didn’t feel like bickering with him, lowering his head to continue wiping down the body of his sabre.
“The spring-gilt sabre morphed from the Tang sabre,” Wang Zhi stated, “and it’s much lighter than a Tang. In particular, it can hack, chop, thrust, be used with one hand, or be used with two. With a spring-gilt sabre in hand, one will have quite enough to travel with ease.”
Seeing that the other regarded the spring-gilt sabre so highly, Tang Fan smiled. “I had believed that the blade you would wield might be a flexible sword, yet it’s a sabre.”
Even though Eunuch Wang was soft in exterior appearance, he was peerlessly brutal at his core. Many eunuchs would have preferred to shrink back into the palace to fight it out for power, but he preferred to go far off beyond the Wall. From that way of looking at things alone, he had to be much mightier, and it was little wonder as to why he preferred a spring-gilt sabre that overflowed with a murderous aura.
Wang Zhi chuckled darkly. “Swords are used by nobles, but this eunuch is a scoundrel, so I naturally use the sabre.”
All he had done was admit to being a scoundrel, yet he had dragged Sui Zhou down into the water. Wasn’t that sentence basically saying that everyone under the sky that used a sabre was a scoundrel?
Tang Fan wasn’t sure how to react.
Thankfully, Sui Zhou was not the sort that was fond of talking back, else they would be completely incompatible and long started fighting, not a moment of peace to be found. At this time, Count Sui merely gave Wang Zhi a cold look, and continued to be quiet.
His attitude of being disinclined to speak with him and disdaining to argue with him made Wang Zhi feel immensely bored. The latter curled his lip, got up, pat the dust off of himself, threw the phrase “How do you stand this guy?” at Tang Fan, then went to go talk business with Wei Mao.
After Wang Zhi left, Sui Zhou raised his head, looking solemn. Tang Fan believed that he was going to talk about Wang Zhi, only for the other man to say, “It was too quiet on the road here. Unusual happenstances must have demons behind them.”
“Actually, I’ve been wondering this whole time; if there really is an array at the foot of the mountain, under what circumstances does it set into motion? According to Shen Gui’s statement, and Meng Cun and the rest’s depiction, every time it activates, the world will shift with sand and rocks flying about, but I have no belief that Li Zilong actually has that capability. If he did, he wouldn’t need to feign the supernatural, hide away, and run to the desert to seek shelter with the Tartars.”
With the condition that the two were alone with each other, Tang Fan could say his own speculations without the least bit of scruples, and no hesitation over causing morale to waver.
Sui Zhou nodded. “I’m also wondering about Shen Gui only saying that there is an array, yet not knowing what kind, and the soldiers’ descriptions were too unclear. It’s hard to make a mental association with those two ends.”
Tang Fan grinned, promptly moving in close to Sui Zhou to use a volume that only the two of them could hear. “I have a feeling that, among us, there is likely an informant for the Society.”
The other’s warm breath puffed onto Sui Zhou’s ear, making it tingle slightly. That subtle feeling even penetrated through his skin, spreading all the way to the bottom of his heart.
In the viewpoints of bystanders, the two’s rearview figures were stuck so extraordinarily close together, their heads were nearly about to touch.
Witnessing his rare bit of distraction, Tang Fan asked worriedly, “What is it?”
“Nothing. Who do you think it is?”
“If I said it was Miss Du, would you believe me?”
Tang Fan chuckled. “I was under the impression that you would at least hesitate a little, out of regard for her pretty feelings towards you.”
“My own feelings have long been given to another. There are no more to give to a second person,” Sui Zhou answered mildly.
This was the first time Tang Fan had ever heard him confess to liking someone, and couldn’t help but suffer a start. “You have someone in mind? Which young lady is she? Have I met her before?”
Sui Zhou gave him a look of profound meaning. “You have.”
Tang Fan would never admit that upon hearing this information, his first reaction was not happiness, but a complex emotion. However, he didn’t betray a smidgen of it, merely joking, “She’s good looking, right?”
That tone was completely without hesitation…
Tang Fan’s mouth twitched. He really hadn’t been able to tell that the ever-cold-faced Count Sui was such an infatuate. “Even better looking than Miss Du, and your cousin from the Qiao family?” he wondered.
“Hm. Better than even them.”
Tang Fan was bewildered. “Have I really met her before? If she’s such a remarkable beauty, there’s no reason I wouldn’t remember her!”
Sui Zhou hooked his lips. “He* actually does know of my feelings for him, he’s just slow to accept it, and refuses to admit it.”
Concealing the strange feeling in his heart, Tang Fan teased, “So, she’s a shy beauty?”
“Mn, he is. And like you, a foodie.”
“What is it?”
“You can’t have… taken a liking to Ah-Dong, right?”
“…What made you think that up?”
“A female foodie that I’ve met. It seems like that could only be Ah-Dong.”
Despite Sui Zhou’s constant calm, his face twitched slightly. A long while later, he could only choke out one sentence: “It isn’t Ah-Dong.”
“Huh? Then who?” Sir Tang sunk into deep thought.
“There aren’t enough tents to stay in individually. You’ll stay with me tonight.” Sui Zhou lightly pat his lower back, not requesting, but confirming.
“Hm… okay,” Tang Fan answered, mind absent as he lingered on the previous issue.
Seeing this, Sui Zhou couldn’t help but mentally sigh. Thin streams flowed long, silently dampening all — they apparently separated one from their target, too.
In these outskirts, everyone ate as they felt. No one spent time catching fish from the lake, instead eating some drygoods stewed in water. Some people hated the dryness of drygoods, so they would steep it in water; this was a common method used by soldiers like Meng Cun while on march outside.
Du Gui’r, however, wasn’t too accustomed to it. Since childhood, she had grown without a worry for food and clothing, having never eaten such simple fare before. After a few bites, she started choking, forced to take several sips of water before her breathing evened out, after which she looked at the drygoods she held with something of a complicated expression.
Suddenly, a hand appeared before her; a handful of dried jujubes was placed in her counterpart’s palm.
Her eyes shone. This was her favorite usual snack, but she had forgotten to bring it with her on this outing.
She looked at the one seated beside her, thanking him as she took a few. “Many thanks, Sir Tang.”
“Take all of them, I’ll bring more. It’s quite alright. You aren’t used to eating drygoods?” Tang Fan asked warmly.
“No.” Du Gui’r was a tad embarrassed. “It seems I’m too spoiled.”
“Spoiled how? A woman like you is already amazing enough!” Tang Fan bust out laughing, then quickly lowered his voice. “I won’t lie to you; I can’t get used to it, either. That’s why I brought some other stuff.”
Like he was doing a magic trick, he took out a small pouch that had been made using a wrapped-up kerchief out of his pocket and passed it over. As soon as Du Gui’r opened it and saw what was inside, she was pleasantly shocked. “Dried apricots, almonds, and walnuts?”
These were the favorite snacks of young girls; she hadn’t expected that Tang Fan would keep these on him.
He set the small pouch into her hand. “I have more, keep it.”
“You like this stuff too?” she questioned, tilting her head.
“Yeah. I usually grab a handful and stuff it in my mouth when I have nothing else to do. It’s particularly easy to get hungry whenever in thought, so one can’t be afraid to carry such things on them all the time,” he answered with a smile.
Via these snacks, the distance between the two swiftly narrowed by a lot.
Du Gui’r’s knowledge of Tang Fan stopped at those few fateful encounters at the apothecary. It was only after this that she realized he was an exceptionally interesting person.
“No wonder someone like Brother Sui would become friends with you!” She smiled with pursed lips.
“Someone like him?” Tang Fan appeared to be very curious as to how she saw Sui Zhou.
“His personality is a bit cold, and he doesn’t speak up. Any ol’ person approaching him might get scared off quickly. That was why, as soon as I saw him be so intensely concerned about you, I became rather curious,” Du Gui’r admitted.
“He really isn’t that difficult to get close to, he’s just cold on the outside, warm on the inside.”
She stuck out her tongue in the utmost display of facetiousness. “Yes, but he’s very unapproachable the first time, making one feel fear from the bottom of their heart. Why would they dare to approach him even more?”
“That’s why my good friend is unmarried as of yet. If you know a good maiden awaiting marriage, please help him out with getting a look at her, so that we can avoid him being alone all his life!” he joked.
Du Gui’r’s face turned red, but she shook her head. “You’ve misunderstood. Brother Sui has long had someone in mind, I’m afraid.”
The instant he heard this, Tang Fan became depressed. Why did it seem like everybody in the whole world knew about Sui Zhou’s beloved, while he alone had no idea? “Right. Which young lady has he taken a liking to?”
“I’m not sure, it’s just a woman’s intuition. Still, you have such a good friendship with him; why not just ask him outright?” she questioned, smiling.
When she had learned that Sui Zhou likely already had someone in mind, she had been disappointed, a feeling equivalent to ‘It’s been difficult to find someone I fancy for all these years, only for him to have long been taken.’ Even so, she only had good impressions towards him, and there was no talk to be had of how deep her feelings went. Despite the disappointment, she had not reached the extent where she would feel loss.
Tang Fan shook his head. “He’s a corked-up gourd. If he’d be willing to speak, that would be fine.”
Du Gui’r had a think. “Then, he must have some unspeakable secret that maybe makes it hard for him to say it to you directly?”
Hard to say it to him directly?
Tang Fan mulled over her words, then had a shock.
Was it that…
Was it that Guangchuan had taken a liking to his big sister, Tang Yu?
The translator says: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO
(If you haven’t seen the update, no EPUBs are getting made for FYC anymore, because MXTX’s novels are getting English eBooks. Let us encourage the trend! We want official eBook releases!)
 From Du Fu’s ‘Presenting a Memorial, Censor Dou, Inspection Envoy of Xishan’. (Here’s a dual breakdown.)
*In Chinese, all pronouns — whether for he, she, or it — are pronounced exactly the same (tā). Verbal pronoun confusion is a common trope.