While the nurse was fighting to save Su Xiaoyu’s life, Bai Yuqiao had lost her usual reflexes and stood dumb on one side. Eventually, her eyes had grown blurry from all her tears.
A long time later, the nurse once against saved Su Xiaoyu from the brink of death. Actually, the girl had been in peril this time. Fortunately, she didn’t struggle like the last few times, but complied with their treatment. Otherwise, she would have died for certain. Once the nurse was sure that Su Xiaoyu was safe, she looked towards Bai Yuqiao and found with astonishment that the girl was drowning in tears.
“Miss Bai, you...what’s happened?” she asked with concern.
Like a madwoman, Bai Yuqiao clutched the nurse by the collar and demanded, “Is she alright now? Let me tell you, if anything happens to her, don’t you think of living either!”
The nurse felt both wronged and afraid. “Miss Bai, I… I…”
“How is she doing? Speak!” Bai Yuqiao raged.
“S-she’s not, she’s not in danger of losing her life anymore. But her illness is still...very serious. Her body is also...very weak. She needs to be treated slowly and gradually...gradually regain her strength,” the nurse’s voice was shaking. After being with Bai Yuqiao for so long, this was the first time she’d witnessed the girl lose control.
“Then what are you still spacing out for? Hurry with the treatment!” Bai Yuqiao shoved the nurse aside and looked left and right anxiously. No matter what, she refused to look at Su Xiaoyu. After a fine, she managed to say, “Th-this...this girl is very important. You have to cure her and take care of her. If you need any medicine, just tell me.”
After that, Bai Yuqiao ran out the door until she saw a group of soldiers walk by. She quickly stopped and turned around so her back was facing them. Only then did she calm down and start wiping the tears from her face. Very carefully, she silently retraced her steps back into the prison. She didn’t disturb the nurse, but stood in the shadows watching as the woman applied needles to Su Xiaoyu’s back. She desperately wanted to walk over and take another look at the tattoo on the girl’s back, but she didn’t dare.
Once upon a time, master had brought her back from the City of Daughters. She had no idea who her parents were, but she did have a little sister. Besides these details, master hadn’t told her a thing. However, she’d started investigating in secret a long time ago. She’d searched through all of Hundred Poisons Sect and Grand Central County until she found the old mama who had raised her in her youth. Unfortunately, the mama didn’t know much, either. She had told Bai Yuqiao that there was a jade ruyi scepter tattoo on her back, although it was incomplete. The mama guessed that if she really did have a little sister, then the other half of the ruyi tattoo would be on her sibling’s back.
In the past, Bai Yanqing had asked the mama to name her. Since Bai Yuqiao had a jade ruyi tattoo on her back, she decided to name her “Yu,” or jade. Because the mama’s own surname was Qiao, the name “Bai Yuqiao” was born. Just then, she’d spotted a jade ruyi tattoo on Su Xiaoyu’s back. It too, showed only one half. Combined with the one on her own skin, the two halves formed a whole.
Tattoos done in youth would grow in size with age as the body shifted and changed shape. Her own ruyi tattoo had long changed form, but she could still discern its shape clearly. Su Xiaoyu’s tattoo had changed as well, but it didn’t differ much from her own. This could only prove that she’d gotten tattooed in her youth, too.
“Su Xiaoyu...Su Xiaoyu…” Bai Yuqiao muttered ot herself. There was a “Yu” in Su Xiaoyu’s name too. Who had given her that name? Was it also because of the tattoo on her back? Amongst the soldiers and Hundred Poisons Sect, the elders who knew her well all called her Yu’er. Meanwhile, Han Yunxi and company called Su Xiaoyu “Little Yu’er.”
So she was Big Yu’er, and Su Xiaoyu was Little Yu’er?
At the thought, more tears burst from Bai Yuqiao’s eyes! She had searched endlessly for her little sister behind her master’s back--her only family in this entire world. But her sister had been with her this entire time! Yet she’d tormented her for so long! Now she was sick and injured and had nearly lost her life.
Why did it turn out like this?
She had been an exquisitely clever child since her youth. Long ago, she already realized that master didn’t really love her while senior brother treated her insincerely. Living a lonely life, she had never felt what it was like to have family. Now she did, but why did it hurt so much? Why was she so miserable and afraid? She was no longer alone, but had someone to hold and embrace. Wasn’t she supposed to be happy?
Why couldn’t she stop crying? Why did she want to sob her heart out?
Bai Yuqiao broke into soundless weeping as she stood in the darkness wiping away her tears again and again.
The nurse finished the acupuncture treatment and wrote a prescription. Once someone brought over the finished medicine, she waited until Su Xiaoyu regained consciousness before feeding her an entire bowl. After that, she headed out and walked by Bai Yuqiao. Seeing the girl standing there gloomily with her head bowed, the nurse didn’t dare to ask any questions. She only said, “Miss Bai, I’ll come back to take her pulse and give her more medicine in six more hours. If she wakes during this time, have a servant girl feed her some millet porridge.”
Bai Yuqiao remained standing with her head bowed as she wordlessly signaled the nurse to leave. Once she was gone, the prisons were left empty and still. Only Su Xiaoyu’s thin, fragile form remained lying on the stone bed, seeming almost unreal against the scenery. Bai Yuqiao leaned against the wall and slowly slid to the ground until she was kneeling on the floor. She buried her face in her hands and began to tremble as she broke into sobs. Gradually, the sound grew louder until they turned into wails that echoed in the chilly, cold space. They were dreary and desolate cries.
Su Xiaoyu slowly opened her eyes. Actually, she hadn’t lost consciousness after taking the medicine, but was simply too tired to move. She was afraid that Bai Yuqiao would question her what Ning Cheng had said if she was awake. She laid there afraid to move, but looked around the cell. Her limited range of sight meant that she missed Bai Yuqiao crouched in a corner. She couldn’t tell the cries came from the girl, nor would she ever imagine Bai Yuqiao could sob so bitterly.
She was only curious to know who might be crying. Had something happened?
Finally, she guessed that some servant girl must have been cursed and hit by Bai Yuqiao to end up sobbing like a mess. Just like that, Su Xiaoyu slowly shut her eyes and slipped into dreamland with her older sister’s sobbing in the air.
Once Bai Yuqiao calmed down, she firmly left the cells instead of checking on Su Xiaoyu. From what she knew of Jun Yixie, the man would never let Su Xiaoyu go unless she spat out intel about the Perplexing Butterfly Illusion. But once Su Xiaoyu confessed, she would be killed. Right now, Jun Yixie was still busying himself with allying with Ning Cheng. No matter what, she had to hurry and save her sister before he had enough free time to remember Su Xiaoyu again.
Jun Yixie was a man she’d crushed on for years. She could do everything for him with a willing heart, but she would never relent when it came to Su Xiaoyu, much less give way. This was something she could only hide in her heart. It was fine as long as she knew it herself. Once the news leaked, it would be hard for her to escape, let alone save anyone else.
As soon as she left the prisons, Bai Yuqiao instructed, “Find two more servant girls--docile types--to wait on the prisoner inside. She’s an important hostage. If any mishaps happen, you lot better watch your heads!”
The soldiers could tell that something was amiss with Bai Yuqiao, but none of them dared to ask why. They respectfully heeded her orders. That very night, Bai Yuqiao sent her trusted subordinate to investigate Su Xiaoyu’s origins. Helian Zuixiang had said that Su Xiaoyu was a spy that Chu Tianyin planted into the Han estate who lost her memory after being exposed. But as to when and how Chu Tianyin found Su Xiaoyu and where she grew up, Bai Yuqiao wanted to know it all.
Jun Yixie was truly too preoccupied to care about Su Xiaoyu’s matters. He used to ask about her occasionally, but now he’d forgotten her entirely to arrange for the transport of 30,000 battle horses down south. Meanwhile, he had contacted Wintercrow Country to speed up the transport of the second batch of horses to Skyriver City. Although he had agreed to give the Di Clan 30,000 steeds, he wouldn’t release them easily. Currently, he was in private conference with a few of the Black Clan’s beastmasters. All of them were the horse-breaking masters of the 30,000 battle horses. They would not only send the horses south, but stay in the Di Clan to assist the Di Clan’s cavalry forces. While Jun Yixie was busy planning to deploy his forces south, another group had arrived on the fringes of Skyriver City.
This was Uncle Cheng’s group.
In the darkness of night, Uncle Cheng’s team stopped at a dilapidated temple outside of Skyriver City. Naturally, he and Manager Jin had both heard of the earthshaking news from Hundred Poisons Sect, while Mu Linger and Ning Jing only knew that Long Feiye and Han Yunxi had teamed up to head for the sect without hearing the outcome. Actually, they could go find Ning Cheng today in Jun Yixie’s camp, but Uncle Cheng was quite prudent. He decided to rest a few days and see what the situation was before heading in. The carriage stopped outside the temple while Manager Jin started up a fire within. The northern winds howled outside as Northern Li settled into its winter months.
Ning Jing was wrapped up in a large, fox-fur robe that kept her warm while hiding her slightly budging stomach. There were some women who started showing their pregnancy as early as three months in, but others who took five to six months. Fortunately, Ning Jing belonged to the latter category, and her loose robes hide the facts from prying eyes. Currently, she was kneeling on the rush hassock and saying her prayers towards the broken Buddha statue inside. Uncle Cheng sat on a pile of thatch nearby, watching the fire burn with an unfocused look. It was unlike what he was calculating to himself.
Manager Jin had just come back from hunting more wild game he’d cleaned up at a nearby brook. Now he had set them over the fire to roast. Mu Linger stared at the meat from the sidelines, feeling more gluttonous by the minute. She didn’t even notice Manager Jin had been shooting multiple glances her way. Once the meat was done, he gave her the first piece of roast quail. Mu Linger accepted it without thinking, but Manager Jin switched at the last second to offer the meat to Uncle Cheng.
He told Mu Linger, “You can’t eat things like this.”
Mu Linger finally realized that she was a “pregnant woman.” She rolled her eyes at Manager Jin before heading for the door.
“Keep an eye on her!” Uncle Cheng snapped.
Manager Jin chased her outside but saw that she hadn’t wandered far beyond sitting on the steps. He paused, then went to sit beside her.
1. jade ruyi scepter tattoo (玉如意纹身) - ruyi in Chinese means “as you wish, as you desire” and is also this translator’s pen name ahem. That aside, the tattoo they’re referring to most likely is just the top (handle) part of a typical ruyi scepter, which can be divided neatly in half. Here is a good picture for reference. On that note, the title of this chapter is a pun: 玉如意不如意 literally means “jade ruyi is no ruyi,” but translated and we get “The jade ruyi is not as one wishes.”
EDITED: Fixed some mix-ups between "Su Xiaoyu" and "Bai Yuqiao."