Dianxia Qingcheng - Chapter 132
Chapter 132: Returning to the Imperial City Once More
January 28, 2023Merchie
Beforehand, Shen Huan had discovered a hidden back gate in the back garden. Once they left through it, they would be able to walk straight out of the Prime Minister’s Manor.
Under the cover of darkness, two figures snuck out of the Prime Minister’s Manor and came to the main street of the Imperial City.
Shen Huan rented a carriage. The carriage traveled all the way out of the city, and after leaving the Imperial City, it continued to race forward under the moonlight.
As she watched the Imperial City slowly receding behind her, Shen Huan finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“Huu, we’re finally out. We can finally go home. Little disciple, are you happy?”
Shen Huan glanced at Shen Shijiu, but saw that Shen Shijiu’s head had been lowered this entire time, and he wasn’t making a sound.
Shen Huan knew that her little disciple was very emotional, and had already grown accustomed to living together at the Prime Minister’s Manor, and had grown accustomed to Pei Zheng. If he was suddenly forced to leave all those things behind, he definitely wouldn’t be able to bear it, and would be incredibly sorrowful.
Shen Huan’s heart ached, and she rubbed her disciple’s soft hair, “Disciple, it’s okay. Life will go on. All of this will pass.”
Shen Shijiu gently leaned his head against Shen Huan’s shoulder, and his tears silently flowed down. He felt very sad, so sad that he was about to die; even breathing would tug painfully at his heart.
Shen Huan hugged him and wiped his tears.
“Disciple, the hardships you must suffer through now are all to make sure you won’t suffer so much in the future. You’ll… understand later.”
When the carriage was still quite far from the entrance of the Ghost Valley, Shen Huan had the driver drop them off.
The entrance of the Ghost Valley could never be discovered by anyone.
The master and disciple slowly walked. They walked until it was almost dawn, before they finally returned to the Ghost Valley.
That bamboo house was still the same as it was before, and the misty, steamy river not far away was still flowing.
It seemed that nothing had changed. However, the master and disciple who had been gone for so long were no longer the same.
Escpecially Shen Shijiu.
Ever since they returned tot he Ghost Valliey, he didn’t smile as much. He was always sitting on the stone bench in front of the bamboo house, staring into space. If Shen Huan didn’t come and call for him, he could sit there by himself for an entire day; who knew what he was thinking about.
Shen Shijiu had also become extremely lethargic, and it always seemed as though he hadn’t slept enough. Shen Huan always had to go and wake him before he would actually open his eyes.
Shen Huan knew that it would take some time for her little disciple’s mood to adjust, but she never expected that he would change this much. When could her little disciple, who was as always bright as the sun, whose eyes curved when he smiled… when could he come back?
A thought crossed Shen Huan’s mind more than once; did I make a mistake?
So, she became more indulgent toward Shen Shijiu. Now, she would hardly even raise her voice at him anymore.
‘Little disciple, wake up. The sun’s shining on your butt, get up and have something to eat.”
The small man beneath the quilt shifted. He rubbed his eyes, and groggily sat up, “Shifu, I don’t want to eat.”
Shen Huan pulled him up to stand, and draped an outer robe over his body, “No, look at your thin arms and legs. Eat more, it’s not good for you to eat so little.”
Shen Shijiu’s complexion seemed a bit sickly, “But Shifu, I can’t keep it down. I don’t feel very good.”
Shen Huan touched his forehead. After making sure that he didn’t have a fever, she placed her finger on his wrist and was about to take his pulse.
But before she could feel for his pulse, Shen Shijiu suddenly bent over and dry retched.
Shen Huan hurriedly patted his back, “What’s wrong, food poisoning? But you haven’t even eaten much, and I’ve eaten the same things as you, how come I’m fine?”
Shen Shijiu said aggrievedly, “I don’t know either.”
Then, he retched again.
Shen Huan waited until he was done retching, before she poured him a cup of warm water. Then, she had him sit by the bed and took his pulse.
As she continued to feel for his pulse, Shen Huan’s expression became strange. Deep creases appeared on her forehead, “Little disciple, give me your other hand, quickly!”
Shen Huan pressed her fingers against Shen Shijiu’s other wrist for a while, and she didn’t move for a long time.
Shen Shijiu asked in confusion, “Shifu, what’s wrong with me? Am I sick? Is it a serious illness?”
Shen Huan looked as though her spirit had left her body. She was frozen for a while before she answered, “Y-you’re fine, just fine. You’re not sick either, just be good and go outside to eat, the food’s going to get cold.”
“Then what about Shifu?”
Shen Huan forced a smile, “Your master will come over later, you go first.”
Shen Shijiu listened to Shen Huan, and obediently walked outside by himself to eat.
Shen Huan jumped off of the bed and began to pace anxiously throughout the room.
“Impossible, that’s impossible, it can’t be, why? How could that happen? How can it be like this?!”
Then, she seemed to recall something, and ran back into her room. She pulled out an archaic medical book from beneath her bed, and didn’t even bother to wipe away the dust on its cover. She simply plopped down on the floor and began to flip through it.
Shen Huan flipped through it for a long while, before she finally found it.
It was said that among the foreign tribe, there was a special bloodline that allowed men to get pregnant as well. However, after many generations of ancestry dilution, this bloodline thinned out and became extremely rare. A hundred years passed without any men giving birth, so the foreign tribe slowly forgot about this bloodline.
However, Shen Huan never expected that Shen Shijiu would actually have this blood in his veins.
And right now, he was already pregnant.
When did this happen?
She thought back and forth, but it could only have been that day when Pei Zheng was drunk.
Shen Huan sat on the ground and didn’t stand up for a long while. Her mind was swimming with thousands of throughts.
For a man to be pregnant would be a strange thing, even to the foreign tribe, let alone in the prim and proper Celestial Dynasty. He would definitely be regarded as some kind of monster.
Then what could she do? She didn’t even know what her little disciple was pregnant with. She could just… slip him some medicine while he was still unaware and abort the child, right?
This child was Pei Zheng’s, and it just so happened that Shen Huan was refusing to allow her little disciple to have anything to do with Pei Zheng. If the child was born, it would probably be even more difficult to keep her little disciple away from Pei Zheng.
Shen Huan was lost in thought, when Shen Shijiu’s soft voice called out from behind her.
“Shifu, the ground is cold, stand up. Hurry and go eat.”
Shen Shijiu came over to help Shen Huan up. Shen Huan stared blankly and allowed her little disciple to pull her off the ground. When she saw her little disciple’s clear, bright eyes, she hurriedly averted her gaze, too scared and guilty to look at him.
She had just been thinking of aborting his child earlier. She really was an evil shifu.
Shen Huan suddenly hugged Shen Shijiu, and even carefully tilted her body to the side; she didn’t want to press against his stomach.
“Little disciple, my poor little disciple, how can fate be so unfair to you? Why does everything terrible have to happen to you?
Shen Shijiu was buried in Shen Huan’s soft embrace. He didn’t understand what his shifu meant by this.
“Shifu, what are you saying?”
Shen Huan let go of him and sniffled, “Nothing. Your master’s hungry, let’s go eat.”
Shen Shijiu was pulled along as Shen Huan walked out, “But Shifu, I’m done already.”
“Stay with Shifu and eat a little more. Right now, you have to eat a lot more, we have to fatten you up. If you’re too skinny, and if you don’t get enough nutrition, you’ll-”
Shen Huan hurriedly shut her mouth; if she continued any further, she would give everything away.
Shen Shijiu asked, “I’ll what, Shifu?”
“You… you won’t grow any taller.”
Shen Huan sat on a stool. She scooped another bowl of rice for Shen Shijiu and made him eat it.
Since she had already decided to abort her little disciple’s child, she would have to make sure his body was strong and healthy. Otherwise, with his current petite physique, he wouldn’t be able to handle it.
And, she still had to think of a way to get him into a better mood. If he continued to be depressed like this, it could affect his health later.
After they finished eating, Shen Huan cleared the table; originally, this was something Shen Shijiu was tasked with, but now, Shen Huan had snatched all the chores for herself.
“Little disciple, is there anything you want to do? Today, your master doesn’t have anything planned, so I can accompany you.”
Shen Shijiu sat in front of the bamboo hut, leaning his chin into his hand as he stared at the distant mountains.
“Shifu, I want to go out and take a look. Just a look, and we’ll come back, is that okay?”
Shen Huan sighed. She knew it.
Counting the days, a month had already passed since they had returned to the Ghost Valley. If it were the past, even if her little disciple stayed here for several months, he wouldn’t have any complaints. It was all Pei Zheng’s fault for making him this way.
Shen Huan nodded, “All right. But, you need to come with your master for a moment.”
Shen Huan led Shen Shijiu back into the bamboo house and gave him a new mask; its facial features were completely different from the ones he had worn in the past.
Then, Shen Huan put on a mask as well.
The master and disciple’s appearances had completely changed, and Shen Huan knew how to alter her voice. They definitely wouldn’t be recognized as long as Shen Shijiu didn’t say anything.
The two left the cluster of mountains in the Ghost Valley and entered the Imperial City once more.
The moment they entered the city, Shen Huan became extremely nervous. She was afraid that Pei Zheng had placed the two of them on the wanted list. Although they had both put on new masks with new faces, Shen Huan still dreaded Pei Zheng’s methods.
However, it didn’t seem like anything had happened in the city; it was so peaceful and normal that it was a bit abnormal.
Shen Huan was jittery, and clutched Shen Shijiu’s cuff. She even had to cast several glances at the peddlers hawking their wares on the sides of the street, in order to see if they were people that the Prime Minister’s Manor had sent to arrest them.
When she came to the public notice board, Shen Huan stood within the crowd and searched carefully. There were a few portraits of wanted criminals posted on the board, but there weren’t any portraits of the two of them.
Shen Huan finally breathed a deep sigh of relief, but immediately after, she felt that something wasn’t right about this.
The Prime Minister’s Manor didn’t send anyone out to search for them? Pei Zheng didn’t plan on recapturing them?
Not only had she abducted her little disciple, but she had even drugged Pei Zheng before leaving. Was Pei Zheng really going to just let them go?
It seemed like Pei Zheng didn’t really like her little disciple that much. He had probably thought of him as an object that he could enjoy and play with for a little while.
The shouts of a vendor selling candied haws came from the side of the street, and Shen Shijiu’s gaze was pulled in that direction.
After they entered the city, his eyes had finally regained some of their brightness. Shen Huan could tell that he wanted to eat candied haws, so she took some money and bought him a stick.
Shen Shijiu happily received it, and his eyes curved as he smiled at Shen Huan, “Thank you, Shifu.”
When Shen Huan saw his bright, beaming face, she smiled as well.
It had been so long. She finally saw her little disciple’s smile again. She never expected that a stick of candied haws would make him so happy.
Shen Shijiu walked as he ate. His little cheeks bulged, and his eyes darted incessantly toward the sides of the street.
It had been so long since he had seen so many people, since he had been somewhere so lively. He couldn’t help himself and cast glances in every direction.
A large crowd had gathered in front of a building. A long line stretched along the path in front of it; this queue was mainly composed of young ladies.
Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu also walked up to that crowd. They were very curious, and asked a girl at the end of the line, “Excuse me, what is this place? Why are there so many people lined up here?”
The girl glanced at the two of them, before she pointed at the sign next to her, “This is a medical clinic, so naturally, everyone here needs to see a doctor. Here, that’s the signboard.”
The two looked over; there were three words written on the sign: “Returning Spring Clinic”.
They already knew that this was a medical clinic. The “returning spring” was probably in reference to the doctor’s excellent medical abilities1. But somehow, it sounded a bit rakish.
“What kind of clinic has so many people lining up in front of it? Little disciple, say, how come no one came when we opened that clinic? And also, why do so many girls need to see a doctor? Could there be some kind of infectious disease going around?”
That girl rolled her eyes.
“Uncle, what are you saying? Please don’t curse us. You both must have just arrived in the city, you don’t know who opened this clinic?”
Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu shook their heads.
That girl’s eyes were shining with stars, “This clinic was opened by Jiang Yubai, Doctor Jiang. You must have heard Doctor Jiang’s name before. He used to be super amazing, he was an imperial physician. But later, he resigned and opened a clinic in the city. Many people are impressed by his reputation, you two must be as well.”
Shen Shijiu whispered excitedly in Shen Huan’s ear, “Shifu, Shifu, it’s Imperial Physician Jiang.”
Shen Huan corrected him, “He isn’t ‘Imperial Physician Jiang’ anymore. He’s ‘Doctor Jiang’.”
That girl said, “Right, right. Doctor Jiang is really great, he can cure any illness. Also, he’s so handsome, why do you think those girls all line up here? They just want Doctor Jiang to touch their wrists. Ptui.”
Shen Huan looked and her and said, “Aren’t you one of them too?”
That girl cast a sidelong glance at Shen Huan, before she covered her mouth and coughed, “I’m not. I’m different from them, I really am not feeling well.”
Shen Huan sighed and began to ignore her. She was just about to turn and leave.
Shen Shijiu stood there, motionless. He tugged at Shen Huan’s sleeve.
“Shifu, we’re not going inside to see Doctor Jiang?”
Shen Huan saw the pleading and hope in his eyes and couldn’t bear to disappoint him again. What’s more, the two had been walking in the city for a while, but it seemed like everything was fine.
“Then let’s go in and see him.”
As she spoke, the two walked past the long line of people, and, in front of everybody, walked straight into the clinic.
They had just stepped inside, when a young medicine boy2 stopped them at the door, “Hey, you two, if you need to get your pulse taken, please go outside and wait in the queue. I’ll remind the two of you that Doctor Jiang only has an hour left for consultations.”
Shen Shijiu said, “But we aren’t here for a consultation, we came to see Doctor Jiang.”
The medicine boy seemed to have heard this line many times, “I know, those people outside are all here to see Doctor Jiang.”
Just as he was about to say something else, someone walked out from inside. He had exchanged his imperial physician’s uniform for a plain white robe, but he still looked incredibly handsome.
Jiang Yubai noticed Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu standing in the main hall. He slowly walked over, staring at the two of them.
The young medicine boy said, “Doctor Jiang, these two insisted on skipping the line and coming inside.”
Jiang Yubai smiled, “It’s fine, go out and tell everyone that the clinic is closed for the day. Those who need to see a doctor should find another clinic. Have them come earlier tomorrow.”
The medical assistant was extremely confused, but he still ran outside and followed Jiang Yubai’s instructions.
Jiang Yubai walked up to Shen Shijiu and pulled him into a hug.
“Xiao Shi, where did you go? I couldn’t find you in the Prime Minister’s Manor, you just left without saying a word! You really are cruel.”
Shen Huan looked at how tightly Jiang Yubai was hugging her little disciple and was terrified. She was afraid that Jiang Yubai would hurt her little disciple, so she rushed over to pull them apart.
“All right, all right, we get it. Let go of him, hurry up and let go.”
Jiang Yubai let go of Shen Shijiu, before he turned and gave Shen Huan a polite hug as well.
“Master Shen, I never had the chance to thank you. Now that you’re here, I must formally say, thank you. If it weren’t for you, I might have… actually died in that prison.”
Shen Huan waved her hand, “It’s nothing, it’s nothing. Oh right, how did you recognize us the moment you saw us?”
As she spoke, she touched her face,
Jiang Yubai laughed, “I just guessed randomly. I didn’t expect that I’d be right.”
Then, his cheerfulness disappeared, “Master Shen, tell me the truth. I’d really like to know why the two of you left without telling anyone. You didn’t even say goodbye.
Shen Huan said, “Goodbye? It’s already great that we were able to sneak out and live to tell the tale. You still don’t know how Pei Zheng’s temper is? Do you really think he’d let us go?”
Jiang Yubai nodded in understanding, “You’re right about that.”
Shen Huan asked, “But there’s something I find very weird. Why didn’t I see anyone from the Prime Minister’s Manor in the city? Could it be that Lord Pei didn’t send anyone to search for us?”
“How could he do that?” Jiang Yubai said, “During the days when it first began, the entire Imperial City was practically turned upside down, even the small towns outside the city weren’t spared. But later, something else happened in court, so Lord Pei was sent somewhere else by His Majesty to take care of things. Only then could the Imperial City have a few days of peace.”
Shen Huan asked, “So you’re saying… Lord Pei isn’t in the city right now?”
“Mm. He’s not here, I think it’ll be a few more days before he comes back.”
Shen Huan smiled, “All right, all right, I’m not worried anymore. Little disciple, in a bit, your master will take you to eat some good food!”
Shen Shijiu had also heard the conversation between the two just now, so he knew Pei Zheng wasn’t in the Imperial City. It was obvious that he was very unhappy, but he didn’t want his shifu to worry, so he still cracked a smile.
Shen Huan could tell his smile was forced. She and Jiang Yubai locked eyes, and they both sighed.
Jiang Yubai said, “It’s a good thing my clinic is closed right now. Let’s go and have a big meal together at Yi Pin Xiang.”
Shen Huan said hesitantly, “But, that’s, I don’t think I brought enough money-”
Jiang Yubai had already walked over and grabbed the depressed-looking Shen Shijiu, before he strode out the door.
Shen Huan hurriedly followed, and said to Jiang Yubai, “Walk slower, don’t drag him!”
The three of them came to the street and began to walk toward Yi Pin Xiang.
Shen Huan had been closely observing Shen Shijiu’s speed this entire time. He was walking extremely slowly, so Jiang Yubai matched his pace. The three slowly shuffled along the street.
A group of people suddenly appeared in the distance; the person at the front of the group was holding a little black cat.
Shen Huan was the first to spot them, and her heart seized. She grabbed Shen Shijiu and dodged to the side.
Jiang Yubai still hadn’t noticed that he was the only one out of the three that was still standing there. And the person who had walked over from the other end of the street was none other than Li Yu.
Li Yu had several servants with him; they had come out to search for a veterinarian. Something was wrong with the manor’s spoiled little cat; it had refused to eat for several days. If His Lordship came back and the cat still hadn’t been treated, everyone in the manor would suffer along with it.
Jiang Yubai knew that he wouldn’t be able to avoid him in time, so he called out first, “Li Yu.”
Li Yu also spotted Jiang Yubai, “Doctor Jiang, isn’t your clinic open today? When did you find the time to come out here to the street?”
Jiang Yubai laughed drily, “Haha, it’s not open. I came to the street t-to take a stroll, just a random stroll.”
The black cat Li Yu was holding suddenly meowed in a certain direction; it even tried to struggle out of Li Yu’s arms and jump down.
Li Yu patted it a few times and held it in place.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with the cat, ever since Master Shen and Young Master Shen left, it just refused to stay quiet. Ai.”
In truth, Li Yu was also very worried. He didn’t know where the little Highness had gone this time, or if he was safe, or if he was doing well.
Jiang Yubai said, “There’s a reputable veterinarian in the northern end of the city. You can take the cat over there and have them take a look. Oh right, do you know when Lord Pei will be back?”
When Jiang Yubai mentioned this, Li Yu sighed, “Not yet. His Lordship should have returned in the last few days, but maybe something happened on the way back, because there still isn’t any news of him.”
Jiang Yubai also became worried, “Then Cheng Feng-”
“Guard Feng went with His Lordship, there hasn’t been any news of him either.”
Jiang Yubai clenched his fingers, “All right. Then you should hurry and take the cat to the veterinarian.”
Li Yu said goodbye to Jiang Yubai, before he and the servants began to walk toward the northern end of the city.
Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu waited until that group of people had become a distant speck, before they finally popped out from behind the nearby stall.
Shen Shijiu watched as Li Yu and the cat disappeared. He pouted, and said softly, “Xiao Miaowu.”
Earlier, when he heard the little cat meowing, he wanted to hurry over and hold it. But Shen Huan held him in place, and didn’t allow him move, because once they were discovered by Li Yu, they would be discovered by the entire Prime Minister’s Manor.
So, she had no choice but to allow her little disciple to feel a bit wronged.
The three continued forward, and arrived at the entrance of Yi Pin Xiang; business was booming as usual.
The waiter led the three of them to be seated in the main hall of the first floor; they weren’t picky, and didn’t need a private room.
Jiang Yubai said, “The two of you should order a lot, there’s no need to save my money. Just think of it as my way of thanking you both.”
Shen Huan really didn’t hold back; she ordered a table full of various delicacies, before she told her little disciple that he could start eating.
Unfortunately, Shen Shijiu had just eaten a stick of candied haws, so he didn’t have an appetite at the moment. He didn’t want to eat anything; when he caught a whiff of the fragrant dishes, he felt the urge to vomit. This was all from Yi Pin Xiang, the restaurant he loved so much.
Jiang Yubai picked up a piece of meat with his chopsticks and gave it to Shen Shijiu. When Shen Shijiu smelled it, he couldn’t restrain himself, twisting his head and retching a few times. However, Jiang Yubai still heard it.
Jiang Yubai was worried that Shen Shijiu was ill. He pinched his wrist to take his pulse.
Shen Huan was eating with great fervor, but when she saw Jiang Yubai taking her little disciple’s pulse, she was so startled that she spat out her chicken leg.
“L-l-let go of him! Hurry up and let go!”
Unfortunately, Jiang Yubai had already noticed the peculiarity.
He narrowed his eyes, and slowly retracted his fingers. He stared at Shen Huan, and mouthed silently, “He’s pregnant?”
Thanks for reading~
1.妙手回春 (miào shǒu huí chūn): “magical hands returning spring”, refers to a miracle cure, or in this case, someone who can bring someone back to life.
2.药童 (yào tóng): “medicine boy”, I’m sure there’s a better translation, but it refers to a boy who works in a pharmacy/is a clinical assistant.