Gu Beiyue was silent as usual, but Qin Min wasn't keeping quiet this time. She was confused when she saw him come back, but after coaxing Shadow to sleep she realized something was wrong and found him immediately. She had supervised his medicinal baths for three whole years. If he'd been deceiving her with perfunctory gestures the entire time, she had no idea what she'd do.
"Gu Beiyue!" Qin Min raised her voice. "I don't get it. Answer my question."
Actually, Gu Beiyue had been obediently using Qin Min's medicine for three years. But to hide his whereabouts after coming to Ningzhou, he had the dregs mailed to Yunning then back back. Thus, the flying messenger hawks would take two to three days to reach their destination. He never meant to drop by tonight, much less expect Shadow to be so sensitive. He realized the issue with the letters as soon as he was exposed and immediately felt regret. Sitting there, he had been waiting for her arrival while figuring out how to answer her question.
But in the end, he only had two options: tell the truth or admit he never soaked in the baths at all and had been going through the motions with her. He had no hesitation, but he couldn't choose either option which left him helpless.
"Gu Beiyue, you lied to me?" Qin Min's voice choked up.
The only connection between them for three years was also her only expectation for him. Yet it had all been a lie and going through the motions. She didn't even hope for him to ever come back to see little Shadow. She only wanted him to take care of his body! His illness was no minor matter, but serious!
Gu Beiyue lowered his head in silence.
Qin Min suddenly grabbed his hand. Gu Beiyue wanted to evade her, but she said, "Don't forget what I said before leaving Medical City!"
He didn't dodge, but used strength to prevent her from taking his wrist and reading his pulse. The two of them were stuck in a stalemate.
Very soon, Qin Min let go and declared, "I'll tell the emperor and empress right now!"
She rose to leave and Gu Beiyue finally looked up. "Qin Min!"
Qin Min stopped but didn't turn around, leaving her back to him. Gu Beiyue was creasing his eyebrows like crazy. "Qin Min, you have no right to ask about my private affairs. We agreed to this in the beginning. Also, I said last time if you wanted to leave that you could write me a divorce letter. You don't need to tell me too much about your personal matters either."
Qin Min was stunned. She suddenly realized that a woman's intuition was really very accurate.
In all these three years, her fear of him coming back had only grown. She'd rather he never show his face and just send him two letters a month and stand before him now and talk about everything. But she didn't hesitate to question him as soon as he showed up about the person in his heart. She knew better than anyone else that all formalities between them would cease as soon as she voiced it.
Still she asked, stubbornly and firmly.
She took a deep breath and looked back. Although her eyes were appallingly red, she still managed a faint smile. "Grand Tutor Gu, I was rude again…no matter…no matter what, I still hope you can take care of your body."
She stopped before continuing, "The pool behind the house was dug out two years ago. I used your prescription to test it for two years but only found the best method a few days ago. It's on the desk over there. Follow the prescription and place ten servings into the spring. You can change it once a month. This will allow you to soak in it daily—best for two hours at a time."
Her smile was made of three parts pain, three parts helplessness, and three parts self-deprecation. The last would be the frankness she never lost. She gave a bow before walking to the desk and personally preparing brush and ink.
It had been so long since Gu Beiyue returned that the ink had long dried out. She kept her eyes lowered and slowly fiddled with the materials, unrushed and easy as her usual days. Those who saw her might think she was just preparing to write some calligraphy or paint a picture. As if this wasn't midnight, but a serene and peaceful afternoon.
But what was she doing?
Gu Beiyue looked at her and subconsciously furrowed his brows again. He couldn't begin to guess. Didn't she say the prescription was already on the table? She shouldn't be writing that.
But no matter how slowly time passed, it would eventually find its way to the end. No matter how slowly she moved, she would eventually get ink from the inkstone. She spread out a white sheet of paper, dipped the brush in ink, and steadily began to write. Each character was written with clear, heavy, firm strokes.
Was divorcing her husband!
Very soon, she finished the divorce letter and walked in front of Gu Beiyue.
"Grand Tutor Gu, you saved me but I…I couldn't help you until the end. I don't ask for forgiveness, only that if you need me in the future…" she smiled, "Besides marriage, if you need me for anything else in the future, just speak. Qin Min owes you a favor."
When she handed over the divorce letter, Gu Beiyue finally realized what she planned to do. He was dumbfounded. Ever since his last trip to Ningzhou, he had begun to sense her feelings and started distancing, avoiding, and even implying rejection on purpose. He had already delayed her body, but didn't dare delay her heart. He truly had been busy in the past three years, but not so much that he couldn't show his face once in a while. He had done it on purpose and at the very least, let little Shadow down.
This was the exact outcome he'd hoped for, but why did he feel so surprised? Why did Qin Min's smiling expression look so foreign and unfamiliar?
"Grand Tutor Gu, this is what you came for, right? Please accept it," Qin Min said indifferently.
If…if her heart hadn't fallen for his tenderness, she would have fulfilled their mutual agreement to be a nominal wife in peace, accompanying him for serious plays only when needed. But since she fell for him, she had to struggle her way out!
Otherwise, what else could she do?
All of his distancing was deliberate. He had seen through her heart long ago.
She would be an idiot if she didn't understand his intentions and refusals after three years.
Gu Beiyue didn't move, but Qin Min placed the paper in his hands and said, "All right. From this moment, we're separated and won't have anything else to do with each other. But forgive me, I have to take Shadow away!"
Gu Beiyue still hadn't spoken. He quietly looked at the paper in his palm while Qin Min didn't hesitate to turn around, tears threatening to spill out of the corner of her eyes. When she had reached the door, Gu Beiyue broke into a fit of heavy coughing. It was similar to the last time he'd coughed in front of her, severe ones that wracked his body. Those who heard them might worry he couldn't even breathe.
She stopped with creased brows, but didn't look back. If he could trick her for three whole years, what could she do with him? Self was the best doctor. If he didn't even wanted to get well, then the best doctor was useless. The more he coughed, the angrier she felt. She had already taken a step out the door but her heart softened in the end. She came back, but the sight that greeted her nearly made her heart stop in fear!
Qin Min dashed over and supported the man sprawled coughing over the table. There was blood all over his mouth and hands!
He had spat up blood!
In a flash, tears streamed down her cheeks. Like fresh pearls, they dropped one by one without stopping.
"Gu Beiyue, I hate you!" She didn't say love, nor was she willing. But she did blurt out hate.
She hated him for tricking her for three whole years.
She hated him for forcing himself all this time.
She hated that she was the world's number one doctor but couldn't even cure himself!
Gu Beiyue couldn't stop his coughs and had no strength. With his eyes closed, Qin Min didn't even know whether he was still conscious. Usually, coughs fits went from mild to severe, but Gu Beiyue's situation was completely different. He either didn't cough or became very serious all at once. While she was living with him in Yunning City, he hadn't coughed once. But last time he came to Ningzhou, he had scared her with his condition. Then when they went from Yunning to Northern Li and back to Medical City, he had spent many days perfectly fine. She didn't even see anything amiss with him tonight, yet he was already like this.
Gu Beiyue was still coughing and the sound almost drove her mad. This coughing was too strange! If she guessed correctly, his illness hadn't been relieved in the past three years but only got worse. She hastily took out her acupuncture needles and used them on him to relieve his cough. Then she called for a guard to help Gu Beiyue onto the bed.
Qin Min took a deep breath and finally checked his pulse. But the results left her white-faced. His pulse was extremely chaotic! She didn't want to admit it, but the signs showed that Gu Beiyue didn't have long to live!
Qin Min fell to the side and stared blankly at the man on the bed as her mind blanked. By the time Xi Yubo rushed over, he was frozen on the spot to see his master unconscious. Qin Min suddenly rose and rushed in front of him. "Tell me," she said coldly, "What's going on here?"
Last time she took his pulse, she only knew he had an old, long-term ailment. Moreover, he said it would neither heal nor kill him, so he could only take care of himself. She assumed it was just a persistent illness that couldn't be cured but controlled, not enough to threaten his life. But who knew…
Xi Yubo recovered his wits to be scared by Qin Min's fury.
"Speak!" Qin Min demanded.
Xi Yubo looked away, afraid to talk. These were his master's personal matters and concerned the Shadow Clan's secrets. This made Qin Min restless as she murmured, "Gu Beiyue…can't save himself, can he?"
Xi Yubo finally looked back with damp eyes. He didn't speak, just nodded his head. Qin Min shut her eyes and wanted to pretend she didn't see Xi Yubo nod, but she witnessed it with her own eyes.
Gu Beiyue could save everyone in the world, except himself.
what...what is the author doing, i've never been so mad...
the one plot i hate above all else is pointless misunderstandings. GBY, if you know you're dying, isn't it better to tell QM that rather than let her believe you tricked her about your baths for the past three years? if despair is what you want her to feel, why not give her the kind that will end cleanly with your death, rather than the kind that will torment her for a lifetime even after you die because she'll always be HURT that you "LIED" to her? maybe you want her to forget you and move on after you're gone. well news flash: letting HER come to terms with YOUR impending death is better than letting HER think you never trusted or respected her enough to keep your promise. if spitting up blood is both a symptom of your illness and the guilt you feel from lying in the first place, then you only brought it upon yourself! ohhhhhh im so frustrated!!
i used to think GBY had the highest emotional intelligence of all three males chasing HYX (LFY and GQS being other two); now i see he has a fundamental misunderstanding of how and when to use and manipulate others' feelings! argh! i guess one thing that's never changed is how freakin' PASSIVE he is about everything. he suffers and suffers and suffers until i, the reader, am tired of his zero character development. goodbye, GBY! i wash my hands of your lukewarm everything. (maybe he's sympathetic but author is not giving me many chances to get an insight into his inner thoughts, so this is not helping the situation. who can read his mind with all these long, intentional silences?!)
right now my attitude is "so what if he spat up blood?" i just...i can't even feel sad about him anymore. and i think that's the saddest part of all, that i'm not mourning over his health or his life being in danger or whatever the author's got set up for him in this plot, but the death of a character i used to like who isn't that sympathetic anymore.
kudos to xi yubo for being Actual Okay Dude in the end though.