Chapter 2: The Turning Point

From childhood to adulthood, Gu Ningxi couldn’t form a clear impression of himself in the mirror, let alone others, everyone was blurred in his mind.

But at this moment, for the first time in his life, he saw a person’s face clearly. Eyes are eyes, nose are nose, lips are lips, and the combination did not turn into a cloud of mist, which was clearly reflected in Gu Ningxi’s eyes. Engraved in his memory.

Gu Ningxi didn’t care too much, he separated the crowd as if being drawn, walked to the student in Tsing Yi1, and asked softly:

“What’s wrong?”

The soldier replied: “My lord, this fellow named Mo Qiqi refuses to let us search him. This is against the rules.”

Under the bright autumn light, Gu Ningxi traced this clear face almost greedily, and asked softly without thinking, “Is that so? What’s going on?”

Under the sunlight, he could clearly see the pale face and trembling eyelashes of the person in front of him.

Mo Qiqi was at a loss, she didn’t know that there would be a body search beforehand, there were tears in her eyes, her lips trembled and she couldn’t speak.

Suddenly, a young official in a crimson official robe appeared in front of him. He was tall and slender, blocking most of the sun. Mo Qiqi looked up, but she couldn’t see the official’s appearance clearly in the light and shadow, but she heard him asking himself about the situation in a soft tone.

Mo Qiqi suddenly had a burst of courage, and said in a voice as thin as a feather brushing against someone’s ear: “Searching the body is an insult to this one, Qiqi is not willing, please help me.”

Gu Ningxi frowned slightly. Body searches have been an old rule of the imperial examination for many years. In order to prevent candidates from cheating, if he hadn’t been able to see Mo Qiqi’s face clearly, he would definitely not have intervened in this matter.

Mo Qiqi’s eyes finally adjusted, only to realize that the official in front of her was handsome and majestic, like a long knife wrapped in red cloth in front of her, keen but not intense, seductive but not piercing, she couldn’t help but stare intently.

Gu Ningxi pondered for a moment, seeing that the long line of students had already stared at them curiosly, he took Mo Qiqi out of the team first, stood under the corner of the tribute courtyard, and asked in detail.

Mo Qiqi hesitated for a while, and saw Mr. Gu staring at her, thinking that he had discovered the secret, her psychological defense suddenly collapsed, and tears poured out of her eyes, wetting her cheeks:

“Mr. Gu, I was wrong, please forgive me. I am A woman disguised as a man to take the exam on behalf of my brother, but I haven’t entered the Gongyuan yet, not have I taken the exam… So please don’t hold me accountable, okay?”

Gu Ningxi was taken aback when he heard the words, he had been scrutinizing Mo Qiqi’s face carefully, not letting go of every inch, not paying attention to whether this person was a man or a woman.

Only then did he realize that there was a female face in front of him, he was a little too late to react, and looked away with some reluctance, it was too impolite to stare at a woman.

Gu Ningxi remembered his responsibilities, coughed lightly to reprimand Mo Qiqi, and asked Mo Qiqi to leave, not allowing her to take the exam.

Then he went back to the entrance of the Gongyuan to inspect, and there was nothing else to do, but the youthful face with clear eyebrows was always reflected in his mind.

During the month when Gu Ningxi was not in the mansion, Tao Xinhe’s life was not relaxed.

The old lady Gu presided over the main branch after the death of the old master Gu. She lived with the third son, since the third room of the Gu family has  not separated from the main branch yet. Tao Xinhe often goes to third Gu’s courtyard to pay her greetings to the grandmother on behalf of the main room.

Mrs. Gu has an eldest son and a third son, and the second son is the son of a concubine.

The eldest son is Gu Ningxi’s father, Master Gu. The mother and son had a falling out in the early years because Master Gu insisted on marrying Gu Ningxi’s mother. Until Gu Ningxi’s parents passed away one after another, Old Madam Gu did not recognize their husband and wife.

The old lady Gu didn’t have any ill feelings towards Gu Ningxi, her second grandson. After all, he was already a fifth-rank official of the imperial court at a young age, and his future was promising.

But she is quite disdainful towards Tao Xinhe, the reason is very simple, Tao Xinhe is the daughter-in-law that Gu Ningxi’s mother is satisfied with.

Every time Tao Xinhe went to see Old Madam Gu, she was never rude. She always brought the embroidery she made for the old lady, and gave gifts to her uncles and aunts. So when Third Aunt Gu saw Tao Xinhe, she smiled diligently: “Did you come here to see the old lady? Follow your Third Aunt.”

Third Aunt Gu quietly looked at Tao Xinhe. She was of medium height and slim figure, with smooth and fair skin, thin eyebrows and eyes, with full lips. She is wearing a pink dress today. Her hair style has also changed. Although she is a middle-aged woman, she still looked quite charming, and young like a slightly riped peach fruit.

Tao Xinhe wasn’t wearing yellow this time, it must be because Gu Ningxi was not at home. Third Aunt Gu really admired this niece-in-law for being able to wear the same color and pattern of clothes every day for three years just for her nephew.

Third Aunt Gu exchanged pleasantries while leading the way:

“I heard that Ningxi has served as the examiner for this Jinshi Examination, right?”

Seeing Tao Xinhe smiling and nodding, Aunt Gu clapped her hands exaggeratedly:

“Hey, it’s amazing, Ningxi is only twenty-five years old and has taken on this important task. We are still struggling in the Imperial Academy. Daughter-in-law, help Third Aunt to talk with the second nephew, tell him to help his cousin out?”

Tao Xinhe smiled wryly.

The third aunt did it again.

The third young master from the third room Gu Ningran, heavily doted on by the old lady. The third master never passed the exam so he decided to help the family manage the business. Gu Ningran barely passed the exam three years ago and was admitted to the Hanlin Academy.

It Is said that when father-in-law was alive, the old lady always asked father-in-law to take care of his nephew, and later she often ordered Gu Ningxi to do the same. This is why the third room always relied on the main room.

On the contrary, it was the second madam, who was indifferent to the old lady because her husband was a concubine-born son. So the old lady didn’t have many demands on them.

Tao Xinhe quickened up her pace a little, and responded with a dignified smile:

“Third Aunt, how much can we know about our husband’s affairs in the inner courtyard. But they are all brothers in the same family. Ningxi knows what he has to do. Besides, the eldest son is also motivated, so the third aunt doesn’t have to worry about it too much.”

Third Aunt Gu took Tao Xinhe’s hand affectionately, a little surprised at how soft and smooth it was:

“When Ningxi and Ningran walked pass each other, Ningxi didn’t even recognize his cousin. Third Aunt has also watched Ningxi Growing up, he used to be quiet when he met anyone. We had to tell him our name first before he can recognize us. In my opinion, it was better after he married you. How many times have you met people to form connections just for him? How many times have I mentioned him, his promotion to Head Scholar is due to your contribution, you are his well-deserved virtuous wife.”

Tao Xinhe understood what the third aunt was referring to, and it wasn’t because her husband was blind. She was often by his side at banquets and gatherings, and mentioned the names and origins of the guests. She just smiled and said nothing.

The two of them arrived at the old lady’s courtyard, and not long after the announcement was made, the maid came out with a troubled expression and replied:

“Mrs. Xi Er, the old lady has a headache and doesn’t want to see guests. She said that it will not be too late to see you again when Second Master Xi comes back.”

Aunt Gu and Tao Xinhe both knew that this was the old lady throwing face at the granddaughter-in-law she didn’t like, and it wasn’t the first time.

Tao Xinhe remained expressionless, thanked the servant generously, left the yard, bid farewell to Third Aunt Gu and returned. Aunt Gu and the maid were left behind to whisper:

“She really has good self-restraint, the elders are  embarrassing her but she can still hold her breath. Although I don’t know if she will cry when she goes back to her courtyard.”

Tao Xinhe just went through the motions, not paying attention to the cold treatment her husband’s grandmother gave her. After a few days, he took Gu Runing, who was from the second room, back to her parent’s Tao Manor for a short stay.

Tao Xinhe is the eldest daughter of the family. When her mother died of illness at the age of fourteen, she single-handedly took charge of the Tao family’s internal affairs. She dedicated herself to honoring her father and raising her younger siblings. She did not marry the Gu family until she was twenty.

She is twenty-three this year, and her second sister, Tao Xinrong, was nineteen years old and married to another family. The younger brother Tao Muxian was eighteen years old and married his wife Madam Hong. The third sister, Tao Xinqiang, was sixteen years old, and Gu Runing came to play with the third girl, Tao Xinqiang.

Tao Muxian was very dependent to his eldest sister, even though he was already a married and an adult, he could still put on a tired look in front of Tao Xinhe. He greeted his elder sister and beg her to stay for a few more days.

Tao Xinhe asked about the recent situation of everyone in the family, and learned that her father still had no plans to remarry, so she could only sigh deeply.


Time flies by fast, and now it is the beginning of October, the weather has turned cold, the leaves have withered, and Tao Xinhe has changed into a jacket, still in the pattern of ginger yellow butterflies wearing flowers.

Ever since she married Gu Ningxi, she knew that she could be identified by her voice, smell, clothing, hairstyle, manner and posture, etc. Tao Xinhe has been wearing the same patterned clothes and combing the same bun for three years.

Today, the list of Jinshi of examination results was released, Gu Ningxi should come out from the Gong Yuan.

Tao Xinhe waited eagerly at the gate of the mansion. The arrangements for welcoming Gu Ningxi in the mansion, such as bath water and delicious meals, were all prepared.

As soon as Gu Ningxi’s figure appeared at the corner of the alley, Tao Xinhe felt her heart beat faster, her eyes were slightly wet, and she hadn’t seen him for a whole month.

Back in the main room, Tao Xinhe dismissed the servants, served Gu Ningxi with his own meals, served him soup, and sat aside quietly watching her husband.

He has lost weight, his face has turned pale, his eyes are a little blue, and his beard has grown. It seems that this month in the Gongyuan has been quite hard. Tao Xinhe felt a little distressed, and picked some vegetables for Gu Ningxi.

After eating and drinking, Gu Ningxi put down the bowls and chopsticks and let out a long breath:

“It’s still comfortable at home, and the food is delicious. I haven’t eaten all this for a long time, what’s wrong why aren’t you eating?”

Tao Xinhe was embarrassed to say that she was stunned by her husband’s appearance and forgot to eat, so she tried her best to maintain a dignified look quickly ate.

The dress and hairstyle of the lady in front of me are familiar, and the makeup the lady painted for herself every day, why is her face still blurred?

Gu Ningxi secretly hated himself for not being able to live up to her expectations, he clenched his fists tightly under the table, his veins burst out, and he wanted to hit his head hard.

Gu Ningxi lowered his eyes slightly, looking at the cold leftovers on the table, his heart was cold, but she said with the most gentle meaning: “My Wife, thank you for the note about the the boss and colleagues you prepared for me last time. This month was really from normal court meetings, everyone sometimes wears casual clothes, and I can only identify them through the characteristics you have defined. There are also all kinds of items, you have taken a lot of trouble. How about you? How are you at home for the past month?”

Tao Xinhe felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach, her body was a little light, and the usual afternoon sun seemed to be playing with her, and she blushed.

Her husband understands her devotion, so it is not in vain that she tries her best to meet male guests2 at various banquets and when visiting other people’s homes, just to write down their characteristics. “Everything is fine at home.” As soon as the voice came out, Tao Xinhe was a little surprised, why was it so soft?

Gu Ningxi shared the bed with her every night after he returned, but he didn’t do anything extra. Tao Xinhe was a little bit disappointed, her eyes reflected the beautifully embroidered fat dolls on the bed curtains, thinking that her husband must be tired and should have a good rest.

However, three days, five days, ten days, half a month…they have not done anything together at all.

Gu Ningxi appeared absent-minded and answered irrelevant questions. Tao Xinhe politely asked him what difficulties he had encountered, but Gu Ningxi prevaricated and told Tao Xinhe not to think too much.

In November, the weather turned cold rapidly, and silver charcoal was burned in the main room of the Gu residence. Tao Xinhe couldn’t sleep well at night, she could often feel her husband tossing and turning, but when she asked softly, he didn’t say a word, and the next day he insisted that he slept soundly until dawn.

It was late when Gu Ningxi came back, and he had to go out on the holidays. He said that the Minister of Rites saw that he performed well in the Gongyuan, and gave him a new task of revising ancient books. He was anxious to finish it before the end of the year, so he often had to work in the department, telling Tao Xinhe not to wait for him to return late, but to go to bed first.

On the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, the first heavy snowfall fell in the capital. It fell for a whole day, and everything was covered with a crystal white coat.

The little maids probably forgot to refill the charcoal sloppily. In the middle of the night, Tao Xinhe felt a chill. She instinctively opened her eyes and adapted to the night, but found that her husband was not by her side.

Tao Xinhe felt restless, pushed the quilt and put on her clothes, got up, pulled up the delicate embroidered shoes beside the bed, and left the bed curtain without a sound, under the faint moonlight and snow color, she searched for Gu Ningxi’s figure everywhere with her eyes, but she couldn’t find it in the house.

Tao Xinhe vaguely heard a slight rustling sound in the yard outside the house, she bit her lip tightly, and walked to the window step by step, gently opened the window to look at the exposed slit.

She saw at a glance that Gu Ningxi, whom she admired wholeheartedly, was only wearing thin plain white pajamas, with red fruits on his upper body, his hair was disheveled, standing in the snow, the snow reaching his ankles.

He was grabbing the snow on the ground, and sprinkled it from the top of his head, letting the cold snow melt on his body, flowing down a series of winding water lines. From time to time, Gu Ningxi raised his head to the sky, opened his mouth and let out a silent cry, like a trapped animal with nowhere to go.

Tao Xinhe suddenly lost the strength of her wrist, closed the window, and squatted on the ground involuntarily, tears pouring out in big drops.

She bit the back of her right hand tightly, and soon the blood oozes out without making a sound.




I checked the book, spoilers, somehow I’m rest assured. However, this is driving me crazy. I can feel my heart breaking up. I feel like the next few chapters will become quite heavy.

Let’s get through this together 


Tsing Yi (青衣) literally means “green/ blue/ black clothes”, but is also a kind of fish, probably blackspot tuskfish, once abundant in nearby waters.

Men and Women are often separated during banquets so it will require a ton of effort just to meet someone of the opposite sex, during official gatherings.