Nobody expected Mu Linger to pop up now of all times. Han Yunxi was stunned. Isn’t Mu Linger in Medical City?
Long Feiye only knew that she had gone looking for medicine, but never thought she’d search all the way over here. The shadow guards showed her in, dusty and travelworn. Her delicate and pretty face showed signs of exhaustion, but he limpid eyes were bright and clear, carrying traces of a smie.
She heard that the country next door had a few patients who caught something similar to the plague of the past and personally came to take a look, hoping she could re-create the original poisonous medicine from plague patients. Unfortunately, she failed after all her efforts. After finishing up there, she hurried here without bothering to tell them just so she could surprise her big sister. She even prepared a present for her new little nephew.
Now Mu Linger only looked doubtfully at the couple and asked, “You two are heading out?”
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi didn’t know what to say.
Mu Linger turned somber and said, “Big sis, you can’t leave your confinement period yet, right? Go in, go in. No matter how important it is, it can’t be more important than that. If you catch something bad because of this, you’ll definitely regret it!”
Zhao mama and the servants stood on the sidelines, not daring to say a word. Mu Linger hadn’t caught on to their silence. Although she was only a slip of a girl, she spoke to Han Yunxi like an experienced matron.
“Are we going?” Long Feiye murmured in a low voice. He was also asking implicitly whether they should tell Mu Linger the truth as well.
Could Han Yunxi keep quiet or hide the truth at this point? She hadn’t told her beforehand because she had no idea about Gu Qishao’s condition, either! If she didn’t speak now, then when? Would Linger get another chance to see her Qi gege again?
“Linger, Gu Beiyue told you to help him make medicine?” Han Yunxi asked.
Mu Linger looked closer at Han Yunxi before noticing her eyes were red as if she’d been crying. She suddenly felt unwell as she nodded and replied, “I went off looking for ingredients. Since I was nearby, I happened to come over for a visit.”
“Did you find the medicine?” Han Yunxi asked next.
Mu Linger shook her head helplessly. “It’s a quandry! Gu Beiyue wanted poisonous medicine from plague patients, but it’s extremely hard to make it from scratch unless the medical academy has some in storage.”
Once again, Han Yunxi’s eyes brimmed with tears.
“That patient’s in a lot of danger. If we can’t find medicine within the next few days, I estimate...they won’t be able to avoid death.”
When Mu Linger finished, tears dripped down from Han Yunxi’s face. Now Mu Linger felt even more restless. “Big sis, what’s wrong? You guys both know that patient? Is it a friend? I...do I...do I know them?”
“Gu Qishao…” Han Yunxi wept.
Mu Linger stiffened. It felt as if something had bashed through her head and left her rooted to the spot.
“Gu...Gu Qishao…” she muttered to herself, feeling that the name sounded extremely strange to her ears. She had forgotten how long it’d been since she’d said those three words.
“Gu Qishao...Gu Qishao…” Large, fat teardrops fell from Mu Linger’s eyes as her mumbles changed from “Gu Qishao” to “Qi gege.”
But why does even “Qi gege” sound so foreign to my ears?
Mu Linger’s head whipped up, her eyes filled with tears as she forced a watery smile. “Big sis, this joke...isn’t funny at all! Qi gege’s in the prime of halth!”
Han Yunxi didn’t know how to explain. She was also running out of time.
“He’s right in the rear mountains,” she said, “Let’s go find him.”
As soon as she finished, Mu Linger ran off ahead of them, faster than any of them. Long Feiye took Han Yunxi to chase after the girl with Chu Xifeng hurrying to catch up. He had lit a torch to help Mu Linger lead the way.
By the time they scaled the peak of that little hill and saw the house from a distance, the skies were turning faint in the horizon. Dawn was approaching.
From far away, Long Feiye saw a large tree growing by the door, its fan-shaped canopy like a big umbrella sheltering the house from wind or rain. He suddenly stopped, his heart feeling like a knife had sliced through it. It was suddenly too painful for him to take another step.
Neither Han Yunxi nor Mu Linger had come here before, so neither of them realized the huge tree didn’t used to exist. It was too far for them to tell what kind of tree it was. The plant looked more like a protective guardian, or perhaps a solitary person standing all by himself.
“Little Qi is over there?” Han Yunxi asked.
Long Feiye didn’t reply as he carried her up step by step. But when they got closer, Han Yunxi’s view of the tree gradually cleared. Its branches were made up of nothing but intertwined vines, its canopy covered in sharp red thorns. At a glance, one might even mistake them for cherry blossoms instead!
But Han Yunxi could clearly see that this was a thorny thistle tree! Long Feiye had already told her all about the vines eating through Gu Qishao’s body on their way up.
“Long Feiye, is this tree…” Han Yunxi trailed off.
Long Feiye carried her to the tree and stopped. Han Yunxi waited for his reply, but he was silent. She didn’t ask further, but looked up. The flood of red that greeted her eyes was akin to Gu Qishao’s scarlet robes. She suddenly remember what he’d told her once upon a time.
“Poison lass,” he had said with a smile, “Don’t worry. I won’t forsake you unless I’m dead.”
At that time, she had treated it as a joke.
Now she desperately wanted to ask, “Gu Qishao, why are all your jokes...so serious? Why?!”
As it turned out, he’d been telling her the truth from the start, but she had never believed him.
Gu Qishao, can your jokes never come true? Can’t they…?
Han Yunxi’s face was covered in tears.
Mu Linger was wholly focused on the little house. All of its doors and windows were shut and no one answered her knocks. Puzzled, she looked at Han Yunxi and asked, “Big sis, where’s Qi gege?”
Han Yunxi didn’t answer. She only looked up at the canopy of red, her vision blurry. Mu Linger followed her gaze, completely lost. She had never seen such a beautiful thorny thistle tree. That fiery red hue made it impossible for her to move her eyes away.
“Big sis, where’s Qi gege? Why are you crying? Tell me, where is he!”
Han Yunxi still didn’t answer. Mu Linger didn’t know a thing, but she started crying too when Han Yunxi continued to weep. She struggled to look up at the tree. She’d been a crybaby since she was a child, but Qi gege had told her to look up whenever she wanted to cry. As long as she looked high enough, the tears wouldn’t be able to fall.
She had never tried it before. If she wanted to cry, she’d just do it. Why did she have to stop herself?
Today she found out that Gu Qishao’s words were all a lie. Staring at the mass of red thorns, Mu Linger sobbed and cried, “Qi gege, what do I do? The tears are still falling down...where are you? Tell Linger...what she should do?"
Long Feiye’s head bowed in silence. After a long time had passed, he finally told Chu Xifeng, “Go find Gu Beiyue.”
He wouldn’t say a word. It was better to let Gu Beiyue explain things to Mu Linger.
Chu Xifeng knocked on the door and heard nothing inside, so he broke through the wood and went in. The sight gave him a jolt. He saw…
He saw Gu Qishao lying quietly on the bed inside, completely naked. His lower body was covered by a quilt. His skin was clear and flawless and even his hair had returned to normal. Since he was on the bed, Chu Xifeng couldn’t see his face, but he saw Gu Beiyue standing to the side and studiously inserting needles into the man. Gu Qishao’s two arms were completely covered in them.
Gu Qishao...isn’t dead? He didn’t turn into a tree?
Hadn’t the vines all but taken over his body? How did he make a full recovery?
Leaving all those thoughts aside, Chu Xifeng turned to Long Feiye and exclaimed, “Your Highness, Qishao didn’t die! He’s not dead, he’s right here!”
Mu Linger was the first to dash forward at those words, while Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s head whipped back in shock. Their hearts had nearly stopped at the words, afraid that they’d misheard.
“Qi gege! Sobsob...what’s wrong with you? Qi gege!” Mu Linger suddenly gave a howl and ran inside.
Seeing this, Long Feiy and Han Yunxi finally accepted the truth. Han Yunxi wanted to walk on her own, but Long Feiye didn’t let her. He carried her to the doorstep and saw the scene before them.
“Little Qi...Little Qi…” Han Yunxi didn’t know whether she was crying or laughing. But she would never forget the sight.
Long Feiye silently exhaled and felt a piercing headache. Still he broke into a helpless smile. While he was distracted, Han Yunxi jumped off his back and ran inside the house.
Mu Linger was still ignorant to everything. She shouted at Qi gege a few times but got no reply. Then she saw Gu Beiyue knit his brows while ignoring her. Growing afraid, her sobs increased in volume. Han Yunxi had no idea what Gu Qishao’s condition was now, but his body looked fine. There were no signs of scars from the vines, which meant this had to be a good sign!
As soon as she stalked over, she muffled Mu Linger’s mouth and croaked hoarsely, “Don’t distract Gu Beiyue or I’ll throw you out!”
Mu Linger immediately stopped moving or making a peep. She realized that Gu Beiyue was saving Qi gege’s life and couldn’t afford to be disturbed. The situation was critical, which was why Gu Beiyue had ignored them all. Mu Linger ended up standing on the sidelines and silently wiping at her tears.
Han Yunxi stood on the opposite side to keep watch, her red eyes staring at Gu Beiyue’s hands. Despite mastering acupuncture, she couldn’t made heads or tails of what he was doing. At some point, Long Feiye had walked to his side and helped her find a chair. He requested her to sit down because women in confinement couldn’t stand for long periods of time.
Long Feiye didn’t stay in the house, but walked outside to breathe in the cold air and clear his thoughts. He looked at the thorny thistle tree growing over head, quietly trying to figure things out. Chu Xifeng followed him outside. By now, he couldn’t make out any more emotions from His Highness’s face, but he couldn’t help saying, “Your Highness, don’t worry. Qishao will definitely be all right. He’ll definitely wake up.”
Long Feiye only instructed faintly, “Send some people over to prepare a sedan chair and carry them down the mountain.”
1. The quote comes from C288 when HYX ran away with GQS to Medicine City to uncover the origins of her mother.
Okay guys, tell me the truth. How many of you thought Gu Qishao was dead when you read Long Feiye seeing the tree by the doorstep? The author is a cruel, cruel troll, hahahahaha~
Tonight's second bonus release was courtesy of the very generous Lisa N! Thanks for saving our readers from a nail-biting night (or day)!